Monday, November 30, 2009
Condon and Dow looks at the total costs of transportation modes. I encourage you to read the whole report, but I wanted to post this telling tabling. One of the thing that we are told is that while SkyTrain costs double or more to build than light rail, you get major saving in the operating costs. This savings is suppose to offset the capital costs. This apparently is not true according to Condon and Dow. SkyTrain costs $2.66 per passenger-mile; light rail is $1.68 per passenger-mile.
Also telling is that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) cost more to build and operate than light rail! So, why are we building BRT and SkyTrain? It doesn’t make sense… I hope someone from the Ministry of Transportation sees this report.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Some facts about Metro Vancouver.
-Metro Vancouver is spending close to $1 billion dollars to improve water quality with the Seymour-Capilano filtration project.
-Metro Vancouver is removing combined sewers in the region to eliminate raw sewage from overflowing into our rivers.
-Metro Vancouver has completed work on improving the efficiency of our wastewater treatment plants
-Metro Vancouver has a waste diversion rate of 55 percent that is far higher than most Canadian municipalities.
Anyway, I think we can be a little proud in BC on what we have done and continue to do on this front. Have a good weekend!
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I snapped the following picture by my work in downtown Vancouver. This is what is left of the Pantages Theatre on Hasting Street. This theatre was built in 1907 and is the oldest remaining vaudeville theatre in Canada. You can read more about the theatre on the History of Vancouver website. There was a plan to restore this theatre in 2008, but the City of Vancouver turned the proposal down. It appears now that the theatre will be torn down due to recent water damage. It is the Heritage Vancouver Society's number one endanger site.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
That was during the time of the Alex Fraser Bridge, Highway 91, Coquihalla, Okanagan Connector era. Between 1992 and 2005, road infrastructure spending was reduced throughout all of Canada, but we had more road infrastructure than Ontario and Quebec until 2002. If we look at absolute dollars in the following table, we can see that BC has kept pace with the rest of Canada and is number 3 in road infrastructure after Ontario and Quebec.
What is more interesting to look at is something called “Other transportation” in this report; this includes railway tracks and passenger terminals. Between 1961 and 2005, we saw a -1.0% loss of value in this kind of infrastructure in Canada and -1.6% in BC. This is the only area nation-wide that has seen negative growth at the provincial level (p.24), with local government trying to make up the difference. Again, TransLink in Vancouver and the TTC in Toronto are the perfect example. The TTC lost its provincial funding in the 1990’s, and has been in financial trouble ever since.
So looking at areas to improve, we can see that road spending has seen growth in absolute terms, but it would appear that other transportation has been sliding. Looking at these numbers and the environment, it would appear that we really need to play “catch up” more so with public transit and other transportation infrastructure.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The first fact is that over the last 45, provinces have downloaded responsibility to provide services and infrastructure without providing proper funding to local municipalities. We can see this with TransLink in Vancouver or the TTC in Toronto. The problems of downloading are very apparent. Both TransLink and the TTC, for example, have faced funding shortages ever since they were turned over to local control. Now I don’t have a problem with local control, in fact I support it, but higher orders of government have a responsibility to insure that there is proper funding in place when they download a service. The BC Community Charter that was passed a few years ago is meant to protect local governments from downloading without funding.
Up until the recent economic downturn, both the federal and provincial governments had record surpluses while local governments continued to raise taxes. Now there is only one taxpayer, but the burden is lighter when you have 4 million people paying for a project instead of 30,000.
"There's really no impediment," Prendergast responded. "It's overcoming the cultural embracement of SkyTrain that has existed to date."So there you have it, it would appear that SkyTrain is something that the Province has been forcing onto our region for the last 30 years... I know this is old news, but there is a reason no other city in North America is expanding SkyTrain. It doesn't make business sense.
He said TransLink is seeking to cut through the pro-SkyTrain "cultural bias" as it embarks on a careful examination of rapid transit technologies for line extensions west along Broadway and south of the Fraser.
At-grade light rail typically can't carry as many people or run as fast as grade-separated SkyTrain, but it's much cheaper and advocates say many more lines could be quickly built for the same budget, particularly in sparsely populated areas.
Prendergast predicted the first light rail line that comes to the Lower Mainland will lead to much greater appreciation of its potential.
Monday, November 23, 2009
About 40 people came out to hear Henry Ewert’s presentation, “When Interurban Travel Dominated the Fraser Valley.” Henry took us on an hour-long photo journey of the Interurban line. If you want more information on the Interurban, I would suggest that you check out our website. Interesting to note was that the line was the longest of its kind in Canada. Also, the Interurban cars had washrooms and water coolers. Talk about luxury! In 1950, the Interurban system was ripped up and cars burned underneath the Burrard Bridge on the promise that local municipal would get $40,000 each for improved roads, and improved transit service with buses. 60 years later, and we are still waiting for improved transit service. In 1910 it took 1 hour and 30 minutes to get from Downtown Vancouver to Langley City. Almost 100 years in 2009, it takes 1 hour and 45 minutes to two hours to get into Downtown Vancouver on transit… What’s wrong with this picture? People in the 1950’s were sold a bill of goods that we are still paying for today.
Anyway, you can download the presentation notes for our document archive.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Saturday, November 21 from 1pm-3pm
Douglas Recreation Centre
20550 Douglas Crescent, Langley
Eastbound access from Highway 1 to the Park and Ride and Transit Exchange will be created, with underpass access on and off Highway 1 connecting to HOV lanes being extended as part of the Port Mann Bridge/Highway 1 project.This is welcome news for sure, and I’ve seen how successful park and ride lots can be in suburban areas (park and ride lots are very successful in Calgary), but Langley has bigger plans; it wants to be a truly urban, transit-friendly centre. For that to happen, we need to do two things to RapidBus to support this goal while we wait for light rail. First, the new Highway One RapidBus does not go down 200th Street into Langley City or into the depths of Walnut Grove. Transit service runs every 30mins down 200th and every hour in Walnut Grove today. We know that transit needs to run every 15 minutes or better for people to use it, so RapidBus needs to go down 200th Street and into Walnut Grove. Maybe we need two difference lines? Secondly, 80% of all trip in the South of the Fraser stay in the South of the Fraser. RapidBus goes along Highway One, which bypasses most of the urban areas in the South of the Fraser. Unless there is major chance to transit service, only the 388, 501/590, 595, and two community shuttle buses will tie into the RapidBus line on the south side of the river. All these buses run every 30mins of worse. Something will have to change unless this service is solely for people like me who commute into downtown Vancouver.
202nd Street will be extended to cross under Highway 1 and will permit Transit and
HOV vehicles access to Highway 1. This will also provide a new north/south transit connection from 200th St. to the Golden Ears Bridge. The Park and Ride will have room for approximately 1,000 vehicles.
Anyway, it is great to see transit investment in Langley and I’m very happy.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The city had also looked at metro-style rail technology, which is used in cities such as Montreal and Toronto.
However, those trains have higher floors that are difficult for some passengers to climb onto because a lot of the mechanics are under the train cars.
The heavier trains would also require expensive grade separation of the corridor and fencing off of the corridor in areas such as the Ottawa River Parkway.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
We are 22% over 1990 GHG emission levels. Looking at the previous chart, you can see that our industrial processes are become more efficient which is a good thing, but there has been a large increase in GHG emission due to road transportation. If you look at the total absolute level of GHG emission fossil fuel industries are responsible for a full 49% of GHG emission increases, transportation 29%, and electricity at 17%. Alberta is responsible for 49% of GHG emission increases, following by Saskatchewan at 22%, Ontario at 13%, and BC at 10%. All other provinces account for 3% of all increases since 1990.
Looking at the South of Fraser, we are building the South Fraser Perimeter Road, expanding Highway One, completed construction on the Golden Ears Bridge, Highway 10, Highway 15, and Fraser Highway. What major transit projects have we completed in that same time period in the South Fraser? Nothing...
Another area that BC will have to reconcile is GHG emissions and our Oil and Gas sector. The Province wants to expand this sector in a big way, but how it will reduce GHG emission at the same time? I don’t know. Alberta is responsible for almost half of Canada’s GHG emission increases since 1990 in large part from their Oil and Gas sector. How BC will be different than Alberta?
Finally in BC, 11% of GHG emissions are from residential and commercial building. You can read about BC’s Green Building Code at the government’s website which should help in a big way.
We are lucky to have hydroelectric generation in BC. GHG emissions from electrical generation account 2% of BC’s total. We must stay proactive in to ensure that we have "green" electrical generation for the future.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The significant potential of the Township’s Carvolth area, which is strategically located around the 200 Street/Highway #1 Interchange, must be recognized in the regional plan. With the completion of the Golden Ears Bridge and TranLink’s plan to develop a major bus exchange and park and ride in the area, Carvolth is set to become a major centre for mixed use and transit-oriented development. It will offer residential, commercial, and office uses, and provide opportunities for different types of employment.The Township still has some issues with the proposed Urban Containment Boundaries, Future Growth in Fernridge, and Sewer Servicing which you can read about on their website.
One of the major issues that needs to be addressed is the disconnect between our region’s growth plans and transportation plans. It is completely obvious that it is hard to build a mixed-use, transit friendly neighbourhood without transit, yet this is what we are being told to do currently. Maybe as part of TransLink 3.0, there should be a requirement to build transit service with mixed-use, transit friendly community as identified by our region…
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
"At the very least, the Turcot project should be done to deal with mass transit and to deal with the whole question of how we can get people to convert from their cars into other means of transportation," DeSouza told CBC News on ThursdayMeanwhile in Calgary, it look like transit service will be cut according to the Calgary Herald.
After rapidly expanding service to meet a booming city's needs and encourage people to drive less, Calgary Transit is cutting back several routes in the city's hard-times budget for 2010.Back at home, the Vancouver Sun is demanding that the Province step up and fund transit properly in Metro Vancouver.
"From a percentage point of view, it's not very big," Ald. Brian Pincott said.
"We've got to make sure we're providing service that allows regular Calgarians to get to work, especially in these times, and I want to make sure we're not harming that."
The management structure of TransLink does need fixing, as the comptroller-general suggests. We need a system that won't get so bogged down in regional squabbling over priorities. We may also be able to reduce administration costs. But those changes alone won't address the major challenge facing TransLink, the need for more general revenue.Finally in the Toronto Star "Making a case for toll roads":
That means looking for funding from senior levels of government. If that's not forthcoming, it means looking at some measures that won't be popular -- raising fares, higher fuel taxes, more tolls or congestion levies. One surprising finding in the comptroller-general's report is that the transit portion of property and utility taxes collected in Vancouver is the lowest of any of Canada's major cities.
Should we put tolls on existing roads in the Greater Toronto Area?
The case for tolls, or "congestion charges," was strengthened this week by a report from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The report makes a compelling argument for tolls as an effective tool for regulating traffic congestion, cutting air pollution and funding public transit.
According to the OECD, tolls elsewhere have successfully reduced congestion – by levels ranging up to 22 per cent in Stockholm – and also cut carbon dioxide emissions.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
One of the larger changes happening at the Port is the way that they interact with the community. As a federal organization, the Port has the ability to ignore municipal zoning and not pay property taxes. The Port does pay something called a PILT (Payment in Lieu of Tax) amounting to $6 million annually to municipalities in which the Port owns property. Though the Port has the ability to ignore the community in which it operates, the Port is now starting to consult with communities; realizing the importance of partnering with, and listening to the concerns of, our region. To that end they are making a real effort to reach out. The Port is working on something called PMV 2050 which is their long range master plan for the Port and our region. They are also working on plans to improve air quality, deal with truck traffic, noise, and reduce their environmental footprint. I was told that by 2011 their long term plan should be complete. Some of the exciting sustainability initiatives that have happened recently are the addition of shore power for cruise ships to reduce GHG emissions when they are in port. Also, the Port has a tiered fee system for ships that use the port facilities. Ships that use cleaner fuel, pay lower fees. Right now about 30 to 35% of the ships are paying the lower dues, so there is lots of room for this program to grow. Also, the Port is taking a serious look at short sea shipping (running ships up the Fraser River) and rail shuttling to reduce truck traffic.
On the topic of Rail, the Port sees rail as very important for the future sustainability of commercial trade. As part of their new model of working together with all levels of government, the Port (with other organizations) has been working to improve rail in the region, the Roberts Bank Corridor Project being one example. The Robert Bank Corridor has been a bit controversial in Langley as many people would like to see the trains gone from Langley. I asked why trains couldn’t be diverted away from Langley. I was told that there would not be enough capacity on other rail lines to do this. It would trigger massive, costly expansion on the other lines. I was told that for at least the next 25 years, there will not be any double-tracking of the rail line going through Langley. One of the Port’s major priorities that it would like to see addressed is a plan for replacing the over-100-year-old New Westminster Rail Bridge. The bridge is owned by the Government of Canada and the Port estimates that it would cost $300 million to replace. The new bridge would allow for both freight and passenger rail operations. There was recent talk about making the new Pattullo Bridge a joint rail/road bridge. It has been decided that the bridge will not be a joint structure due to liability issues and construction costs.
I asked about many of the environmental concerns raised by many in the community like the Pacific Flyway. I was told that the Port takes this issue seriously, and I’m hoping to get some more information about the mitigation measures they are taking. Another interesting thing that the Port is looking into is using the material from river dredging to create new land, possibly for ALR use.
It was really great to hear about the Port from Peter and really how important it is in Metro Vancouver. Did you know that the Port accounts for 40% of all port traffic in Canada? That makes it pretty important for our nation. Also, the Port receives $0 funding from government. While the Port definitely has positive externalities for our region, it will be interesting to see how they address the negative externalities in the coming years. I am looking forward to their 2050 long-range plan. Peter said that with all the infrastructure being added and expanded in the region, we will not even recognize it in the next 5 years. If we manage the new infrastructure properly, we will have a system that will work well into the future, but I fear we may not, and may even lose our region’s livability in the process.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Date: November 10th, 2009
Time: 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Township of Langley Municipal Facility
4th Floor, Yorkson Creek Meeting Room
20338 – 65 Avenue, Langley
See you there!
Monday, November 9, 2009
I wanted to follow up on my previous post about the report with a few more insights. First off, since the Province has been actively involved in transit planning since the inception of TransLink, it is probably a good idea for them to be at the table. The original TransLink was supposed to have representation from the Province. The issue was that no one from the Province would show up.
The other major issue is still funding and TransLink’s debt. The Comptroller notes:
Public transportation systems typically require some form of ongoing financial support in addition to fares. TransLinks current rate for fare box recovery to cost is 55%. That is, just over half the costs of operating a transit vehicle are recovered at the fare box, on average. The other 45% of the cost needs to be funded from sources other than fares.The comptroller notes that the largest source of debt are from expand service in “lower ridership, geographically sparse areas.” (aka: South Fraser). She goes on to state that “actions should have been taken to contain rising costs through service rationalizations and other means to mitigate or prevent the known structural deficit that was being predicted.” Basically, don’t improve transit in the South Fraser.
TransLink’s financial situation is further stressed because some of the new infrastructure is expected to cost more than the revenues it will generate. For example, the cost of operating the Canada Line (net of bus fleet operating efficiencies) is expected to exceed the additional system revenue it generates until 2025…
Reading this report, it would seem like the major issue with transit in Metro Vancouver is the lack of proper funding. I think the Province has a choice to make. Will they work with the mayors to find new funding for TransLink to improve service in areas like the South Fraser, or lock us into a future of single modal dependency (driving)? I know that the current government likes using the words “balanced transportation”. Well unless transit is improved in the South Fraser, we will never see a balanced transportation system in the South Fraser. In fact with a 58% of all trip in Vancouver and 87% of all trips in the South of Fraser by auto, we are not balanced at all...
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Under the helm of Prendergast, TransLink embarked on a massive public consultation process that confirmed people want better public transit. With public consultation out of the way, they developed a funding plan that including options such as road pricing. Very progressive stuff. Added to that, they even got our mayors talking about, and evening supporting the notion of, new funding sourcing like road pricing.
If TransLink was truly the regional transportation authority on the South Coast, we would now have a fullly-funded transit plan and a sustainable future within our reach. It would have been good news for people living in the South Fraser; we would have seen massive improvement in transit service. Of course, we all know who the real transportation authority is. Sure TransLink can play with its toy buses, but when it comes to the big stuff like planning our transportation future, it’s the Ministry of Transportation that’s calling the shots. The Province’s transit plan is one of many example of how the region comes up with a plan, only to have the Province veto it. I remember a TransLink planner telling me that they are constantly changing their plans to be in line with the Province’s wishes. If the Province want to control TransLink, why not change the governance model again?
This just in... BC Comptroller General Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland's report released today recommends that the Province rename the Mayors' Council to "Transit Authority", and give the Province 20% say in all matters of the new Transit Authority. Wenezenki-Yolland recommends giving the Transit Authority more power including the ability to appoint and remove TransLink board members, and provide oversight. Also recommended was clarifying the role of the Province as it relates to transit.
We recommend the province review, clarify and update the legislation to reflect fully its intentions and objectives for the TransLink governance model (including clear articulation of regional transportation priorities) and clarify in legislation the roles and responsibilities.Province at the table - check
Mayor at the table - check
Politicians controlling TransLink - check
It seems like we've gone full circle with transit in Metro Vancouver... Have a great weekend!
PS: One of the interesting items from the report was the notions that TransLink could implement a vehicle levy, but only after "TransLink [can] fully demonstrate that cost containment strategies are in place and existing revenue streams are maximized before exploring alternative sources of revenue. The province could consider raising the existing limits in the revenue streams currently available to TransLink in order to maintain the guiding principle of balance between the types of revenue streams (1/3 from existing vehicle related taxes, 1/3 property taxes, 1/3 other revenues such as fares, advertising, land, etc)."
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Board Chair Dale Parker announced today that TransLink President Tom Prendergast will leave the organization to take the helm of North America’s largest subway and bus system, New York City Transit Authority.According to the Surrey Leader, the Province's meddling in TransLink may have been one of the reasons he left.
Asked if [Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts] believes the conflict between the region and the provincial government over the future of TransLink was a factor, Watts said: "Tom, with the knowledge he had of transportation and the calibre of the work he brought to the table, I feel he probably wasn't fully appreciated by some."
SFU City Program director Gordon Price says the funding standoff with Victoria and now Prendergast's departure signals a "tragic" turning point for the region.
"As of this moment, our future is going to be auto-dependent," Price said. "The truckers have won."
He said he has no hope the province will now seriously come to the table.
NEWS FLASH: Rumours swirl this morning that TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast is heading back to New York City to run the NYC transit authority. Still unconfirmed at this point, but I trust my source...Has Prendergast had to much of the TransLink/Province melodrama? Stay tuned...
Light-rail electric trains powered by overhead wires are being recommended as the best technology for Ottawa’s new public transit system.
The technology choice, to be confirmed by councillors Nov. 18, sets the stage for more detailed planning and negotiations for the transit project, which sees: a downtown tunnel; the bus transitway converted to rail from Blair Station to Tunney’s Pasture; rail extended eventually to Baseline Station, as well as to the south; and expansions of the bus system in suburban areas.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
He will be speaking at the Douglas Recreation Centre (20550 Douglas Crescent) on Saturday, November 21 starting at 1pm.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
City of Vancouver's website for lots of interesting statistics on the bridge. I think the project was also successful because of the information campaign letting people know that there was going to be chances on the bridge.
Monday, November 2, 2009
In Metro Vancouver, we take the unlimited ride monthly pass for granted. You can get anywhere in the region with a three zone pass or ticket. It wasn’t until 1998 that New York City introduced an unlimited ride pass. They saw a surge in ridership. While many regions as now rolling out Smart Card so that transit users only need to have one payment device, you still need to load passes and money for multiply transit agencies.
All this to say that while TransLink has funding issues, the concept of a regional transportation authority with one pass makes transportation more accessible and less intimidating to new users.