Stephen Rees's blog

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

All VINs Affected by Takata Recalls Now Searchable

This is a notice I received this morning from the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

I know we are not in the US, but I tried my car’s VIN number anyway, which it recognized once I typed it correctly. If you have a car impacted by a recall, then you should hear from the manufacturer, but not everyone is careful to keep their records up to date. The size of this recall is so huge that it may take some time before they get to your car. This a a relatively easy and quick way to find out if you are excluded, which is then once less thing to worry about.

The Takata air bag recall is one of the largest and most complex product recalls in history. That’s why we’re sharing this special update with you: all of the vehicle identification numbers, or VINs, affected by the Takata recall are now loaded into our VIN Lookup Tool on our website, SaferCar.gov.

This means that consumers can find out if their vehicle is part of the Takata recall by simply searching with a vehicle identification number, or VIN, on our website. But we need your help: consumers need to know about this free tool available to them. The VIN Lookup Tool is simple to use and will inform consumers about all open recalls on their vehicle. With the Takata recall, this tool is more important than ever.

Here’s some background information on the recall to share with your followers and fellow bloggers:

Last month, Takata announced a national recall of certain types of driver and passenger side air bag inflators. These inflators were made with a propellant that can degrade over time and has led to ruptures that have been blamed for seven deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide. This recall involves 11 different vehicle makes and roughly 34 million vehicles. That’s millions of people who urgently need to know what steps they should take in order to protect themselves and their loved ones. You can find the full list of makes affected by the Takata recall on our Recalls Spotlight page.

With your help in sharing this safety announcement, you can reach people who may not know that they’re affected by this recall. And, if they’re not under the Takata recall, there may be other open recalls that pertain to their vehicles. Every recall is a serious safety matter, and should always be addressed as soon as possible.

Another great tool is our new video, Understanding Vehicle Recalls. The video explains what to expect if a car is recalled and what to do next. Registering for recall updates on vehicle, tires, or car seats can also keep consumers notified about recalls that matter to them.

The NHTSA VIN Lookup Tool now has all of the Takata affected VINs loaded for searching. Share this message with your followers and help us reach those who may not know if their vehicle is subject to this safety recall.

Don’t forget to follow NHTSA’s new handle for all recall updates, NHTSArecalls.

Forward this on to your followers/readers and encourage anyone interested in vehicle safety to join our conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 22, 2015 at 10:02 am

Posted in Road safety

Tagged with , ,

Policy Recommendations to Combat Vancouver Housing Unaffordability

with 7 comments

This is a bit frustrating, but it derives from a feature of Tumblr that does not permit comments. In view of recent experience I must admit to being tempted to move this blog to Tumblr. So, to you new readers looking at this paragraph and thinking about telling me I am wrong, and then going on to insult me – and even issue death threats for being blocked – I am NOT going to allow your comment to appear until I am satisfied that you are not just another troll.

The link to this quote came up on Twitter and is very interesting: I do not know the author (Saeid Fard) but Wisemonkeysblog is a good source of useful tweets and retweets

The piece opens

There has been a lot of talk from all three levels of government addressing Vancouver’s (and the rest of Canada’s to a lesser extent) housing affordability problem. Each has taken its turn to punt the issue to another level of government. In that vane, here is a non-exhaustive list of policy solutions that would attack the issue along with a highly subjective measure of expected impact.

and there are some ideas I will pass over. But not this one

 

Invest in (fast) transit

Expected Impact: Low to Medium
Jurisdiction: Municipal (with Provincial cooperation)

A better transit system in Greater Vancouver would connect more affordable neighbourhoods to the core and unlock their livability. Vancouver does have natural, geographic boundaries like oceans and mountains that restrict how far we can develop, but a lot of our constraints are self-imposed. In cities like New York, you can live as far away as Connecticut and still make it to midtown in about an hour. You can’t get to downtown Vancouver from parts of Burnaby in that time during rush hour.

There are several observations that occur to me. Impact is likely better than anticipated but will take time, firstly because it is not just provincial cooperation that is needed, the feds have to come up with their third too. But even if the Yes side gets a majority in the current (we are still counting) plebiscite, it is NOT binding and what would you bet on Christy finding reasons why BC can’t afford more transit for Metro Vancouver.

Moreover, a lot of employment is outside of downtown Vancouver, and much of that in places difficult to serve with any kind of transit. But also, of course, by “fast” I think he means grade separated trains and those take a long time to build.

Burnaby actually has more, and faster, transit options, than nearly any other municipality. They have also rejected trolleybus extensions (Corrigan can’t stand the wires) and an additional WCE station to help BCIT students and workers on the Willingdon corridor get to their TriCities/Maple Meadows homes faster.

Anyway, “faster” transit may not help if the overall trip is less convenient, due to transfers, access and so on. Often what is needed is not so much faster transit as more frequent, reliable transit and better route penetration into low density areas to reduce access times. When the overall trip experience includes long walks, indeterminate waits and discomfort (no shelter, no seat, no toilets at the station) it doesn’t matter how fast the transit vehicle is. Moreover, in some cases, you also need to be able to get on and not have to watch one or more transit vehicles depart without you.

But you regular readers know that and I doubt Tumblr readers will find their way here. Will they?

Afterthought: but I was also going to say that the original concerns about suburban sprawl appeared long before freeways did. Railways – interurbans and rapid transit – spurred dramatic growth on the edges of what had been fairly compact areas from the middle of the nineteenth century onwards. I know several people who were greatly concerned that the opening of West Coast Express would turn more of Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and Mission into bedroom communities. I am not sure if anyone has done any follow up research on that, and the lack of a proper census probably renders that moot now.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

June 20, 2015 at 6:14 pm

Posted in transit

Tagged with , ,

“What can I, as an individual, do to stop climate change?”

with one comment

Greenpeace Shell BC

Illustration taken from GreenPeace

One of the benefits of having a blog – and one of its curses too – is that I get things in the email that other people want me to put on my blog. Or write about on my blog. This is one of those: it comes from The Nation which is a magazine whose web site operates behind a paywall. So I get a complimentary log in to see articles which they think I will direct you to. Many are worthy, and I understand why The Nation wants to stay in business and keep paying its journalists to provide content. But, as far as possible, I continue to try and find sources that are not paywalled.

Today the news is full of two things that everybody is writing about: the new Papal encyclical and the latest American shooting atrocity. The Nation has three, searing articles about that and how this church and this date were neither randomly picked. And a commencement speech by Naomi Klein to the College of the Atlantic on June 6, 2015.

Mine is not going to be your average commencement address, for the simple reason that College of the Atlantic is not your average college. I mean, what kind of college lets students vote on their commencement speaker—as if this is their day or something? What’s next? Women choosing whom they are going to marry?

So as it happens there’s a couple of things here that have resonance with me. Firstly the Atlantic has, very wisely, closed comments on the three articles about the Charleston massacre. After yesterday, I have been seriously thinking that might not be too bad of an idea here, but two comments from the Usual Suspects set me straight on that. We do have good discussions here, and one wingnut is not going to be allowed to upset that. Secondly, one of the topics that Naomi Klein addresses speaks to something I have been thinking about.

These days, I give talks about how the same economic model that superpowered multinationals to seek out cheap labor in Indonesia and China also supercharged global greenhouse-gas emissions. And, invariably, the hand goes up: “Tell me what I can do as an individual.” Or maybe “as a business owner.”

The hard truth is that the answer to the question “What can I, as an individual, do to stop climate change?” is: nothing. You can’t do anything. In fact, the very idea that we—as atomized individuals, even lots of atomized individuals—could play a significant part in stabilizing the planet’s climate system, or changing the global economy, is objectively nuts.

Recently Jane Fonda visited Jericho Beach and spoke there about pipelines and coastal tankers and whatnot, and of course the commenters weighed in as usual, being snide about how Jane chose to travel here, and thus was some kind of hypocrite because that trip used fossil fuel. Just as the same cabal has chided Al Gore for his campaigning on the same topic.

Maybe the Pope is going to be different. Maybe his speech will start the moral shift that is needed in the corridors of power to finally address the issue. Of course the fact that someone inside the Vatican leaked the encyclical (not a usual turn of events) and that Jeb Bush was already out front of it seem to point in the direction that the pontiff will be going. A bit like the way the President has had to acknowledge on gun control.

But continuing the “fair use “privilege, here is how Naomi Klein sees it towards the end of her speech

….the weight of the world is not on any one person’s shoulders—not yours. Not Zoe’s. Not mine. It rests in the strength of the project of transformation that millions are already a part of.

That means we are free to follow our passions. To do the kind of work that will sustain us for the long run. It even means we can take breaks—in fact, we have a duty to take them. And to make sure our friends do too.

And, as it happens you can also watch – for free –  what Naomi Klein said on YouTube

And also here is what she has to say about the Pope’s new message

We don’t need no consultation!

with 2 comments

It is not often I find myself in complete agreement with a spokesperson of the BC NDP. But this evening I heard an interview with B.C. NDP Justice Critic Mike Farnworth on CBC  

“I expected more than a hashtag consultation. I was expecting some leadership shown and some action taken,” he said.

“We know what the problem is. Distracted driving — people texting, people using cell phones while driving — kills people. There’s nothing to consult on.”

BC’s penalties for distracted driving are the lowest in Canada. The BC government thinks it ought to consult on the problem: distracted driving here is now the second leading cause of death due to vehicle collisions, exceeding alcohol but still less than speed.

If you feel so inclined you can be part of the process. That is if you think the paucity of the penalty is the problem.

No doubt after all this song and dance the penalty will increase but nothing much else will actually change. Because the problem is not the perception of the size of the penalty but the perception of the probability of being caught. Most people using hand held electronic devices in their cars while driving know they are breaking the law, but they don’t see it as dangerous. Anymore than they see speeding as dangerous. Or queue jumping, running stale amber lights, parking in bike lanes … and so on. And they know for an absolute certainty that the probability of being caught is about as low as winning the lottery. They still buy lottery tickets of course.

If you could actually catch speeders when they commit the offence you could reduce speeding. Well, we all know what happened to that don’t we. It was unpopular with speeders – so it was dropped like a hot brick. Do you think that the BC Liberals are actually serious about upsetting all those people who continue to take important calls and those crucial text messages they must send? There will be consultation and those angry with other people they see texting will be vociferous. But behaviour will change little if at all. And there will be media events and other hoopla about periodic crackdowns – especially after some well documented collision. Expect a crackdown whenever something newsworthy happens. That probably doesn’t mean your Granny having a near miss on a marked crosswalk.

I suppose I ought to be able to condense that to 140 characters. But I can’t so its a blog post.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 16, 2015 at 8:26 pm

Posted in Road safety

Tagged with

TransLink pushes out senior transportation planning veterans Tamim Raad and Brian Mills

with 5 comments

The headline comes from the Georgia Straight but I got there from Frances Bula’s blog. The remarkable thing of course is that Translink sheds staff all the time, but usually it is only changes at the top that become news stories. And, what pushes me to write about it, is that the commenters all feel free to pile on. Some of the Straight’s being much worse.

Of course I know Brian and Tamim from when I worked at Translink. No one commented on my departure and I still feel constrained by the document that I was required to sign in order to get my severance package to not say any more about that. The truth, of course, is that we will never know why they were let go. It is probably quite likely that neither of them got more than a sanitised version of the reasoning, and no doubt they will be told to keep even that to themselves.

Not that that stops the commenters. Shielded by the anonymity of the comment process they can opine freely, even though there is not a shred of credibility in what they say. They are immune from the normal sanctions, and I doubt it is worth anyone’s while to try to launch a case of libel, even though some of what is written is clearly libellous. Both were highly competent at what they did. Tamim used to work in my section and I tried to do what I could both to give him as much delegated responsibility as possible and to ensure that he got the credit and rewards that would help Translink retain him. Neither he, nor Brian, were promoted on the basis of “Buggin’s turn”. They both earned their promotions. I find the idea that the person who is hiding behind the anonymity of Straight’s system is a fellow employee even more revolting, but I suppose every office has its rivalries. The work atmosphere of the planning department ought to have improved with the departure of Glen Leicester, who was generally disliked and clearly had been the beneficiary of the Peter Principle. He mostly took the credit for any successes of his staff but made sure the blame always fell far below him.

I think it is much more likely that the person who states  “If you really knew them you would know they do not have the skills or ability to manage at their level” really has no idea at all of what they are talking about. They are very unlikely indeed to have the education, training or knowledge either to be effective transportation planners or managers themselves. But they relish the opportunity to denigrate those who do. Unfortunately, there are many who thinks that they have great expertise in transit – or transportation in general – simply because they have used more than one system, or have read a few books aimed at enthusiasts. They find it hard to get employment at any more than operative levels – and sometimes not even then – simply because they lack the necessary skills and abilities. And every so often reveal that by the ignorance that underlies their comments.

It is also untrue that Translink must be held responsible for the technical failures of Compass. They had a Cubic system, and they wrote the specifications for how they needed that to be adapted. When the original system was bought the undertaking that it would be upgradeable was built into the contract. The major failing is due to Cubic’s inability to produce an adequately reliable touch pad reader on a bus – and they are not alone in that. The internal divisions within Translink may have been shifted around since my day, but one of the big changes that was brought in with the move away from BC Transit was significant shift of resources to “Capital Projects” (previously Engineering) for project management. Neither Tamim nor Brian would have had much influence except for pointing out what the policies (expressed by the fare tariff and transportation plan) required of the system.

Everyone is entitled to have and express their own opinions. But they are not entitled to their own facts. They are not entitled to denigrate anyone, and they are also not exempted from the normal requirements of society by the facility of information technology which they apparently think shields them from the consequences of their actions. I am publishing this on my blog so that I do not get into a profitless exchange on the Straight’s site: but I would like the editors there to take a stronger line  in moderation. I think it is also possible for the Straight as a publication to be held liable for comments that they do not moderate effectively – but then I am not a lawyer either. I do moderate here, and comments like that do not appear here.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 11, 2015 at 11:28 am

Posted in transit

Tagged with ,

Equity, Opportunity and Good Health

with 2 comments

A free public lecture from SFU Continuing Studies and The City Program

How Transportation Affects the Essential Qualities of Life In Metro Vancouver
Thursday, 30 April 2015 7:30 PM at SFU Segal School of Business

Transportation connects us to our community, our place of work and our friends and family. The way transportation infrastructure is designed and the modes of transportation that we have access to impact our lifestyle and our health.
The lecture reviewed some of the evidence from other jurisdictions, but focused primarily on the findings from the My Health My Community project that surveyed 28,000 Metro Vancouver residents in 2013/14.
While there are clear dividends in health for active transportation users, current transit infrastructure does not equally benefit all communities in Metro Vancouver. Access to transportation widens opportunity and is a significant equity issue in Metro Vancouver.

This lecture was in collaboration with the 2015 ITE QUAD Conference, May 1-2 at the Pan Pacific Hotel, Vancouver.

It is fortunate that the text and illustrations that were used for this lecture are all available on line. I noticed that several people were trying to photograph the illustrations used, but that turns out to unnecessary too.

The talk was preceded by a presentation by Dale Bracewell, the Manager of Active Transportation at the City of Vancouver. He started by stating that Vancouver now designs its active transportation projects to meet the needs of all ages and abilities. The overarching goals are set by Transportation 2040 but that includes the interim goal of 50% of trips by walk, cycle and transit by 2020. The City has set itself objectives in the fields of Economy, People and Environment. The active transportation program fits within the People category and the Healthy City Strategy, which has a four year Action Plan. Walking and cycling are now the fastest growing transportation mode which reflects Vancouver’s high Walk Score. A panel survey is conducted annually with the City’s Health Partners.

Walking has increased by 19% while the collision rate has fallen by 20%. The collision data also needs to be seen within the context of the City’s Vision Zero. Cycling has increased by 41% while collisions have fallen by 17%. It is clear that the safety in numbers effect is working. Vancouver has installed a series of automated bike counters. He had a set of graphics which I have yet to find but the data is available as a large pdf spreadsheet.

This is the counter at Science World which now has the biggest count – even greater than the Burrard Bridge

Bike Counter

The counters show cycle use growing between 7 and 15% over the last year. The Lion’s Gate Bridge now equals Hornby and Dunsmuir, even before the new safety measures for cyclists have been introduced.

hornby-beforeafter

Hornby Street still moves as many vehicle now as it did before, simply because the  two way separated bike lane replaced on street parking. There are still 14,000 cars a day, but cycle traffic has increased 50% to 2,700 per day. At the same time there are 5,000 people on the sidewalk, with pedestrians showing a clear preference for the side with the cyclists rather than the parked cars. The street is now moving more people overall.

He also added a plug for an upcoming conference in Vancouver next year pro walk pro bike pro place  September 12 – 15, 2016

Dr. Jat Sandhu is the regional director of the public health surveillance unit at the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. He stressed that his remarks are his own personal views.

He started by contrasting the experience of driving a car in congested traffic on the Sea to Sky Highway with that of riding a bike on a path next to the North Arm of the Fraser River – the stress of the former versus the relaxation of the latter. He grew up in Hong Kong and described his boyhood commute to school from Stanley to Kowloon: and one and half hour combination of buses and ferry to cover the same distance as the Canada Line from Richmond Brighouse to Waterfront.

He cited the work of Larry Frank at UBC who has published the all embracing literature review on health and transportation, looking at physical activity, air quality, mental health, injuries and equity. “Urban Sprawl and Public Health”. He also pointed to USC study of the Los Angeles to Culver City Exposition LRT which reduced daily vehicle travel by households of between 10 to 12 miles a day which a 30% reduction of CO2 emissions.

It is known that daily physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, reduces the risk of chronic disease and grants a 40% reduction in the risk of premature mortality.  Yet only 40% of the population meet the recommended activity levels. Obesity is now overtaking smoking in the mortality race. Physical inactivity is a large part of the problem as shown by a study of commute time against obesity in Atlanta GA (Am J Prev Med 2004). He also pointed to the lack of transit equity citing the Next Stop Health study in Toronto.

The My Health My Community survey covers the entire area covered by Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health. What makes Canadians sick? 50% of the time “your life”.

The study asked respondents 90 questions about their socio-economic status, health, lifestyle, healthcare access, built environment and community.

The transportation report on Metro Vancouver released last week is the first of a series of reports from this data, intended to inform the discussion of the transportation plebiscite in this region. It draws from the survey responses from residents of the region – which is a subset of the survey mostly conducted on line, but with supplementary paper surveys to ensure adequate coverage of ethnic minorities. It covers only those over 18 years of age. Its target was a 2% sample which may seem small but is much better than the 0.5% sample of the typical transportation survey. Census data to neighborhood level was used to ensure a representative sample. It was a one year process, and results have been weighted to correct for age, gender, education and geography. Of 34,000 respondents, 28,000 live in Metro Vancouver: 80% of those make daily trips for work or education.

55% car driver or passenger

29% transit

10% walk

4% bike

2% other

Only Vancouver, New Westminster, Burnaby and the City of North Vancouver have over the Metro Vancouver average for active transportation modes.

Page 1 Key Messages Graphic

Page 1 Mode of Commute Graphic

I think the two maps are perhaps the most useful representations I have seen especially since they also map the Mayors’ Council’s proposals. What I think would be immensely more useful is a map of the non-active modes with the road projects that have been built in this region in the last ten years or so. While Dr Sandhu points to the goodness of fit of the proposals to correct some of the grosser transit inequities of this region, I think a map of “motordom” showing how the widening of Highway #1 (ongoing) the increase of traffic speeds on the Sea to SkyHighway, the impact of the South Fraser Perimeter road and the increase of capacity along Highway #10 through South Surrey, as well as all the various interchange improvements financed by development (200 St and Highway #1 for instance) as well as the Golden Ears Bridge and the new bridge over the CP yards in Port Coquitlam vastly overshadow anything that might happen as a result of the Mayor’s plan. I do not have the technical competence to produce such a map overlay myself, but I do hope one of you does.

By the way, the originals of these maps are huge: click on them to enlarge and see the details.

Page 4 Active Transport MAP

Page 5 Car use MAP2

Among some of the other results he quoted:

The median commute time is 30 minutes: for car users it is 25 minutes and for transit 45 minutes. He said that reducing travel time for transit users should be a target, though absent the data on distance I am not sure that actually tells us much. To some extent, people choose how long they are willing to travel – and for some, such as West Coast Express users – the travel time will be viewed in a positive light. However, as a selling point for the Yes side in the plebiscite “Less time in your car, more time in your community” works well.

The determinants of transit use include age: the two biggest groups are 18 to 29 and those over 70. In both cases there is often a financial incentive for transit use (UPass, concession fares). 14% of transit users have a chronic health condition which he said points to the need for more HandyDART, which is included in the plan. There is a 50% higher transit usage by ethnic minorities – except for South Asians – with the highest usage among recent immigrants  – who of course are not eligible to vote. Neither, come to that is Dr Sandhu. Only 75% of respondents are Canadian citizens. Transit use decreases with increases in income.

He also produced a graph showing municipalities by commute mode and the incidence of obesity. He said the correlation coefficient (r²) was 0.99 [which as far as I am concerned is unheard of].

He also showed the WalkScore map of the region – which I wish I could find on line. The web page I link to is not exactly what I was looking for!

The current transit infrastructure does not equitably benefit all communities. This is a social justice issue as it impacts access to education and employment. The proposed investments will be positive in this regard. The greatest health legacy of the Olympic Games was [not the creation of his position] the Canada Line. Metro Vancouver is 4th in transit use in North America, only behind the very much larger populations of New York, Montreal and Toronto. We have a relatively small population of 2.5 million and thus “do not have the same tax base”.

Q & A

1.  A question about the aboriginal use of transit which seemed to be explained by lower income and the availability

2.  Some people use different modes for the same trip on different days: walking or cycling in good weather for instance. Or more than one mode during one trip. The reply was that the choice of mode had been “collapsed down” and respondents were asked to pick their primary mode

3.  A technical discussion of the sample compared to household survey which replaced the long form censu  s

4. A question about income which produced the response that the City of Vancouver saw similar levels of active transportation across the city, but immigrants were more economically active than the population in general – a reflection of federal immigration policies.

5. Do people realize how walkable their neighborhood really is? Don’t we need more education?

The study helps the Health Authorities feed information into the OCP and community partners, as well as their interactions with nonprofits and school boards

6. “I have not heard the word Translink used. Is there going to be more bus service?”

7. Eric Doherty pointed out that just increasing bus service shows diminishing returns without a greater commitment to bus priority. He also mentioned feelings of superiority when he rode on a bus to the ferry and passed all those car users stuck in congestion.

I responded that bus priority measures are one of the most cost effective ways of improving the attractiveness of transit, but requires a level of enforcement not so far seen here.

REACTION

Gordon Price was really impressed by the cycling data. There’s nothing like a few good figures to destroy some long held misbeliefs.

The health study simply confirms what we have long known, but seem reluctant to act on. My own views on this were set out in a post in published earlier this year. I want to acknowledge the recent promotion of that post on Twitter by Brent Toderian which has had a very significant impact on my WordPress statistics.

The talk was in a larger room than usual, and was linked to the ITE Quad conference, but was poorly attended. The discussion was really rather muted.

BC CLIMATE RESEARCHERS TACKLE LNG, ENERGY EFFICIENCY, TRANSPORT AND MORE

with 3 comments

Sorry about the shouty headline: the UVic Press Release uses all caps and my WP editor lacks a ‘change case’ key. This actually came to me from a tweet. You do follow me on twitter don’t you? There’s now a handy widget over there on the top right if you need it. Some of the tweets do get repeated by facebook, but not many of the retweets. And quite a lot of stuff that I see does not get blogged these days, especially since Twitter changed the way retweets are done that now can include commentary. Today, for the first time, I was able to retweet something with the terse comment “Horseshit!” – something, I now realize, I have wanted to do for a long time.

Climate research – and the long list of projects – is all very worthy, but I am afraid I am very much unimpressed. And I am also a bit inspired by a post in the Tyee which sets out the progressive manifesto 0f what needs to be done once we have got rid of Stephen Harper. So while the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) is doing its five year research project here are some things that we need to be doing right away. That is because action on climate change is now urgent. Like The Man said “We don’t have time for a meeting with the Flat Earth Society“. We do actually know what needs to be done and, sadly, these things seem to have slipped through the PICS net.

First note that they are hung up on gee whiz technology. We don’t actually need any of that. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that we know about, familiar technologies and techniques that are held back simply by a combination of out of date policies and inertia. BC Transit was forced to waste money on hydrogen buses (whatever happened to them? I asked BCT but they have yet to reply) when we knew plenty about trolleybuses and extended range hybrid dual powered buses too. Nothing was learned from that five year demonstration project other than it is possible to truck hydrogen across the continent and convince yourself that you are helping the environment.

Transportation and the Built Environment are treated in the research list as two separate programmes. I wonder if the researchers will talk to each other over lunch sometimes? Because we all know that land use and transportation are two sides of the same coin. The best transportation plan is a good land use plan. The best way to save energy from transportation is to cut the need to make motorised trips. Community Energy Planning should have become mandatory fifteen years ago, but Glen Clark shut down the Energy Efficiency Branch of MEMPR – and forgot all about the BC Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program. Most of the advances that we are going to see in the field of transportation will come from a combination of information technology and deregulation. (See Bridj below) There’s a great deal we can do to make better use of what we have but the rules and regs get in the way. Like bike helmets, for instance. By the way did you know that the researchers who did the study that supports BC’s current helmet law have themselves repudiated that study? Protected bike lanes work better to both save lives and encourage bike use – and they are amazingly simple to introduce. As The Lady said, if you want to see change, do it quickly. The Burrard Bridge case is as convincing as any that chaos will not ensue.

Most of the change we need will start happening once we stop subsidizing fossil fuels. Indeed it is quite remarkable how much change is already under way, despite billions of dollars propping up what will soon be a dying industry. The tar sands are already uneconomic, and unnecessary, just as LNG export is a really stupid proposition in the present market. So stop throwing money at oil and gas, and you not only free up some fiscal headroom for sensible policies, but you also give the market the sort of signals it would have got if you had stuck to your guns over carbon tax. Ditch revenue neutral as a policy objective there, keep jacking up the carbon price and spend the proceeds on public transportation – local transit and high speed electric trains for longer distances. Electrify the main corridors straight away (Toronto – Ottawa – Montreal, Edmonton – Calgary) and then start building new high speed railways as cancelling freeway expansions permit. Maybe by then the Americans will have started to catch up with the rest of the world, and we can talk about Vancouver – Seattle – Portland.

What I do see as problematic is that we will probably be better at civilizing the suburbs than getting real change in urban areas, where many more people live in multifamily buildings. It’s pretty easy to put up your own solar panel, and put both a Tesla car and a home battery in your own garage. If you can afford it. It is going to be much harder to get equivalent changes in condos, though co-ops seem to be doing better with things like bike storage. Public housing, of course, has to go back on the agenda. It is not enough to make the existing housing stock more efficient when so much of it is out of range of the middle class, let alone the people who struggle on unlivable wages and such welfare assistance as survives. I do not see any work being done by PICS on environmental justice. But make no mistake, we do have to tackle the issue of the lack of jobs in range of affordable housing in transit deprived areas. We do need to think about how our energy policies can be used to create better employment prospects for our own population rather than simply looking to exploit export markets for barely transformed raw materials. “Researchers will also identify opportunities to substitute timber products for carbon-intensive steel, concrete or plastics used in many sectors, including the building industry.” Start first by banning the export of raw logs to ensure that there will be some local industry to produce these wonderful things.

I am really against spending so much on building technologies – where the potential savings in fossil fuels in BC are limited – when you have no plan to tackle the major user of liquid fuels – personal transportation. Again, we know that old fashioned ideas like trolleybuses, trams and interurbans – even diesel buses, for goodness sake – produce far less ghg per passenger kilometre than single occupant internal combustion engine cars and trucks. So we really do not need any more research on  “the distribution potential of alternative fuels including compressed (CNG), liquefied (LNG) and renewable (RNG) natural gas.” Even if every car could be electric, zero emission at a wave of a magic wand we would still have all the present problems of traffic, road deaths and urban sprawl. There is even less saving in ghg in having a carbon zero or even positive reduction in CO2 building if it is stuck out in the middle of nowhere – and everybody is driving to and from it! On the other hand, increasing bus service frequency and reliability – mostly by paint on the streets – is a well established technique for increasing transit use – and it doesn’t all come from cannibalising walking and cycling. Much of it comes from unpaid chauffeuring.

The article on Bridj really got me thinking. First note that this service is actually delivering something slower in downtown DC than can be achieved on a bike. But then this guy is also wasting time “20 minutes to shower and change” after his ride. Imagine someone from Copenhagen or Amsterdam writing that. Bridj could be a serious challenge to transit – much more than Uber and Lyft which are aimed at the taxi market. Or it could be a very useful supplement, and work much better than Community Shuttle service does in the suburbs. Indeed, when you look at how it works, isn’t that a good description of what HandyDART was supposed to do? And how about we simply abandon (once again) the old “separate but equal” philosophy, and instead of having a segregated service for people with disabilities – which actually does not work very well at all – but have a service which anyone can use. But is cheaper to deliver because you separate out the paying for it from using it. $5 for a ride on a profit making service? If the math is right, that is cheaper than most Community Shuttles, and much less than HandyDART. The driver, of course, would continue to help those who need assistance for door to door movement. As I have always said, in the low density areas (which includes most of Vancouver south of 12th Avenue) we need something better than a bus but cheaper than a taxi. Bridj isn’t going to attract people who can use really good transit. But then we don’t actually have that in much of the region, and it is not at all clear that we will turn out to be ready to pay for more of that yet. Oh, and before I forget, we would also need to sort out a much more equitable transit tariff, based on ability to pay, but that is a subject for another day.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,403 other followers