Friday, July 4, 2008

Annacis Island

Yesterday on a work trip to Annacis Island, I got thinking about the future role of freight rail in our region.

Industrial areas like Annacis Island, Gloucester, Langley City, and Port Kells all have great rail access. While some of sidings and spurs in these areas are underutilized today, they will prove to be increasing important as the cost of fuel and therefore the cost of long-distance trucking continues to rise.

The trucking industry is in a bind today on more than the cost-of-fuel front too. They are having a hard time attracting younger people into their field.
The study shows that between 1991 and 2001, younger drivers between the ages of 20 and 24 have been increasingly under-represented when compared to other employed Canadians. In 1991, more than 9% of drivers were between 20 and 24. By 2001, the number was cut in half to around 4.5%. Those in the same age group employed in other occupations remained at above 9%.
I have a friend, my age, that just quit trucking; he hated the long hours and being away from friends and family. He didn’t mind local trucking though. High Gas + Labour Shortage = High Shipping Cost. All of a sudden developments like Campbell Height Industrial Area with no rail access don’t sound that great.

While trucking will not being going away anytime soon, the whole transportation industry will have to realign in the next several years as we find ways to be more efficient with our energy. Maybe we should also redesign some our industrial areas too.

A few years ago during a Sustainability by Design event, some planner from the City of Burnaby talked about combining housing with industrial areas. I wish I had the drawings they came up with, it was very exciting. This kind of development is happening in other parts of the world too. Singapore has mixed-use high technology business areas. Also Granville Island, the tourist areas, has a cement factory right in the middle of it. While you wouldn't build a mixed-use industrial area by a steel factory, the fact is that most industrial areas today a very quiet and free of above-average air pollution. Whatever happens, business as usual can no longer happen.

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