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The Umbrella Trees are early this year

March 2, 2015

Spanish Banks, Saturday morning.


Umbrella Tree (1) - Copy


Umbrella Tree (2) - Copy


Or maybe they’re late.  Here are last year’s:

Umbrella last year


More info and pics on the anonymous artist(s) here in VanCity Buzz.

The Consequences of No: “Freeway Fight 2.0″

March 2, 2015

I hope Novae Res Urbis and their writer Karenn Krangle don’t mind, but I’m going to reprint a full article from the current issue.  (Plug: NRU is the best source of info on local and regional urban issues and development in Vancouver.)




The forthcoming transportation plebiscite is about the future of the Greater Vancouver region, although most of the focus has been on TransLink, a planning symposium was told Friday.

Gordon Price, director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program, offered a gloomy picture if the No side wins, and said the future fight could be in the hands of those who are students now. “It is about the direction of the region,” he said during a panel discussion on Metro Vancouver’s transportation future, presented by the School of Community and Regional planning at the University of B.C.

“This is about the confidence in the leadership of this region. We have never before seen on one stage the [Vancouver] Board of Trade, the David Suzuki Foundation, the unions, the public-health people, environmentalists, the seniors, the disabled, almost all the mayors,” Price said of the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition, comprising 100 organizations aimed at mobilizing the Yes vote. ”And if this vote goes down, that is a vote of confidence, and in the way that life works, if you have given a vote of non-confidence to this group, you by default give it to somebody else. Who is that going to be?”

By comparison, he said, the single face of the No side is Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Association. Price said later that the Yes side should have put a public “face” on its campaign early on, as the provincial government did with Jimmy Pattison for Expo 86 or Jack Poole for the 2010 Olympics.

He told the symposium the vote “is very clearly now about TransLink. For many people, the meme that this is your chance to send a message is all that counts. They will tell you they are not voting whether there should be more transit. They want to send a message to TransLink.

“Regardless of the merits of that argument, this referendum is now about TransLink, so we can anticipate there will be change. There may well be blood. However, that is now going to be part of what happens as a consequence of this referendum.”

While the Yes proponents have said there is no Plan B if the plebiscite fails, there is one by default, Price said. “We know what some of the components are — Massey Bridge”, he said. “We will build another $2 billion, 10-lane bridge that will be connected to a larger freeway network that will shape the future certainly south of the Fraser and the rest of the region and you will not vote on it. That’s what happens by default.”

Price said the default plan, which he described as “paving over parts of the Pacific Flyway” is not speculation or a worst-case scenario. “This will be a moment of generational definition for you,” he said to his mostly-student audience. You are going to have the opportunity in the case of a No vote to fight old battles. Get ready for freeway fight 2.0*.” He was referring to the protests of the late 1960s that stopped plans to run a freeway through central Vancouver.

And if the transit vote fails, he said, highways will rule. “You don’t put billions of dollars into building bridges and widening highways right up to the borders of Vancouver — Sea to Sky, Highway 1, 99, the widest bridges in the world — and then think the traffic is going to come to a stop at 70th and Oak,” he said. “That machine must be fed and it will come up with multi-billion-dollar ideas and it isn’t going to be in transit. It will be in moving vehicles.”

Price, who has recently done an informal poll on his blog, Price Tags — with a 51 per cent of respondents predicting a Yes result, 49 per cent No — took a hands-up vote with his audience and received a split prediction. “This sucker could go either way,” he said, but noted a Yes result is still conceivable.

“It is possible that we’ve vented enough on TransLink and if enough people — the [media] and the thinktanks — think the future of this place is at stake, there may be a voice to emerge and it might even be the premier’s, who can say, yeah, we hear you on TransLink,” he said. “We may make that vote.”

The SCARP symposium also heard from Tamim Raad, TransLink’s director of strategic planning and policy, who has been seconded by the mayors’ council on regional transportation for the plebisicite campaign, who said transit service levels will decline without new funding.

“If we’re going to keep up with growth, our costs grow,” he said, noting that the regional population is growing by about 2 per cent a year and costs rise about 7 per cent annually. “We hit peak bus [capacity] in 2009 and that is declining every year without improvements.”

Also on the panel was Paul Krueger, lead planner for Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 team, who called the mistrust of TransLink misguided. “A Yes vote doesn’t mean we’re going to hand a blank cheque over to anybody,” he said.


* To be more specific on Freeway Fight 2.0, I doubt anyone is going to resurrect the plans for a Chinatown freeway (See “Chinatowns and Freeways”.)  

More likely, it will be proposals like the one seriously put forth by NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe for counterflow lanes on arterials (See “NPA: The Curious Case of the Counterflow Lanes” .)  

It will be a proposal for a new bridge from Richmond’s No. 8 Road to Boundary Road.  (See “How Motordom Works: Promoting the Next Big Project”.)  There are already some advocating for it – and more: 

Delta realtor Dean Bauck (is) a little disappointed about the decision to build only one bridge. … He said he would have preferred dispersing the stream. This would involve twinning the Alex Fraser Bridge and building two new bridges connecting Richmond to Vancouver. One of these would go to Boundary Road, a thoroughfare shared by Vancouver and Burnaby; the other would connect to Main Street in Vancouver.

Others will up the ante and propose a tunnel under sections of Vancouver, similar to the Clem7 in Brisbane.  You can absolutely count on some leaders on the North Shore to push yet again for another crossing into Vancouver.  

More modestly, the first principle of the City of Vancouver’s transportation plan – “No increase in road capacity” – will be questioned and placed in doubt.  Arguments will then be made to strip parking on arterials all day long, to restrict left turns, to eliminate consideration of bike lanes on major roads, to widen arterials in sections, and even as suggested on this blog, to build underpasses at key intersections.

After we’ve voted down transit to handle growth, they will ask, what options do we have left?

Referendum: Responses from MLAs – Weekly Count – 5

March 2, 2015

Now just two weeks until the ballots go out – and here’s the update on the MLAs who have NOT responded to our questions.



Email request sent on January 8:

Scott Hamilton (Liberal, Delta North) –

Richard Lee (Liberal, Burnaby North) –

Mary Polak (Liberal, Langley)-


Email request sent on January 21:

Suzanne Anton (Liberal, Vancouver-Fraserview) –

Harry Bains (NDP, Surrey-Newton) –

Marvin Hunt (Liberal, Surrey-Panorama) –

Bruce Ralston (NDP, Surrey-Whalley) –

Linda Reid (Liberal, Richmond East) -

Moira Stilwell (Liberal, Vancouver-Langara) –

Ralph Sultan (Liberal, West Vancouver-Capilano) –

Amrik Virk (Liberal, Surrey-Tynehead) –

Teresa Wat (Liberal, Richmond East) –

Andrew Wilkinson (Liberal, Vancouver-Quilchena) –

Naomi Yamamoto (Liberal, North Vancouver-Lonsdale) – 

John Yap (Liberal, Richmond-Steveston) – (Unable respond due to illness).


Email request sent on January 30:

Rich Coleman (Liberal MLA, Fort Langley-Aldergrove) –

Jordan Sturdy (Liberal, West Vancouver-Sea to Sky) –


We now have a minority of MLAs who have not taken a position.  As Brent Toderian has tweeted: “I will be disappointed by anything less than vocal, persuasive arguments for a yes-vote from our local MLAs.”  Indeed, the question is now not so much their position but why they are avoiding taking one.  Depending on the outcome of the vote, that’s going to be hard to justify.

So credit to the following:


THOSE WHO HAVE RESPONDED (Click on name for submission):

Doug Bing (Liberal, Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows) –

Stephanie Cadieux (Liberal, Surrey-Cloverdale) –

Spencer Chandra Herbert (NDP, Vancouver West End) –

Raj Chouhan (NDP, Burnaby-Edmonds) –

Kathy Corrigan (NDP, Burnaby-Deer Lake) –

Marc Dalton (Liberal, Maple Ridge-Mission) –

Judy Darcy (NDP< New Westminster) –

Adrian Dix (NDP, Vancouver-Kingsway) –

David Eby (NDP, Vancouver-Point Grey) –

Mable Elmore (NDP, Vancouver-Kensington) –

Mike Farnworth (NDP, Port Coquitlam) –

Peter Fassbender (Liberal, Surrey-Fleetwood)

Sue Hammell (NDP, Surrey-Green Timbers) –

George Heyman (NDP, Vancouver Fairview) –

Gordon Hogg (Liberal, Surrey-White Rock) –

Douglas Horne (Liberal, Coquitlam-Burke Mountain) –

Vicki Huntington (Independent, Delta South) –

Jenny Wai Ching Kwan (NDP, Vancouver-Mount Pleasant) –

Linda Reimer (Liberal, Port Moody-Coquitlam) –

Selina Robinson – (NDP, Maillardville-Coquitlam) –

Jane Shin (NDP, Burnaby-Lougheed) –

Shane Simpson (NDP, Vancouver-Hastings) –

Sam Sullivan – (Liberal, Vancouver-False Creek) –

Jane Thornthwaite (Liberal, North Vancouver-Seymour) –




How Jordan works: Lessons from Dr. Evil

March 2, 2015

David Roberts in Grist describes the techniques of  “Dr. Evil,” i.e., Richard Berman.  Compare to the techniques of Jordan Bateman.  Not a coincidence.


There was a story in The New York Times last October that didn’t get the attention it deserved. It was about a speech given last June in Colorado Springs to a bunch of energy executives by “Dr. Evil,” i.e., Richard Berman, the guy who does PR for pretty much every nasty industry you can name. …

And that’s why it’s worth listening to him, and worth reading the transcript of that speech he gave energy execs. It’s a fascinating discourse on how to shape public opinion by someone who is a) very good at it and b) utterly unburdened by scruples. This is how to win when you don’t care about decency or honesty or the opinion of your peers. This is how to win when you only care about winning. …


1. Always be on the offensive.

The key is to shape public judgment. “If you want public judgment on your side, you have to start the conversation,” Berman says. “You’re on defense if you’re responding to somebody else.”

You always attack, frame the issue, establish the battlefield. If you are responding to someone else’s accusations, even if your defense is accurate, you are losing.


2. The best offense is ad hominem.

Berman is explicit and unapologetic that going on the offensive means “shooting the messenger,” i.e., discrediting opponents, depriving them of moral authority. “The logic of the offense campaign,” Berman says, “is diminishing the other side’s ability to capture people’s imagination and to become credible.”


3. Being first, establishing common knowledge, is half the game.

“You know the guy that gets to make the first opinion, the first impression, has a huge advantage,” Berman notes, “because people don’t want to admit they were wrong the first time.” Getting out first and broadly helps create what he calls “common knowledge,” i.e., the kinds of things that “everybody knows,” even though most people can’t tell you where they heard it. …

Once something becomes common knowledge, it is extremely difficult to dislodge it. This is part of the brilliance of the right-wing media machine. It surrounds conservatives with dozens of voices, all saying the same thing, which leads to the strong impression that, hey, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. …


4. A tie is a win for the status quo.

When you are defending the status quo, you don’t necessarily need to convince the public that your side is right. You just need to confuse the issue. If you make people doubt the other side’s messengers and fill the air with a bunch of contradictory statistics and facts, most people won’t have the wherewithal to dig through it all. They will simply tune out:

You get in people’s mind a tie. They don’t know who is right. … People are not prepared to get aggressive in moving one way or another. I’ll take a tie any day if I’m trying to preserve the status quo.

This is one reason why preventing change is easier than generating it.


5. Humor works. (And so does scorn.)


We like to use humor because humor doesn’t offend people and at the same time they get the message. … Wherever possible I like to use humor to minimize or marginalize the people on the other side.


6. Emotion works better than facts; negative emotions linger longer.

Berman doesn’t get into this in the energy speech, but he has touched on it elsewhere. Here’s a bit from the Globe story:

Berman gave one of his most revealing talks about his strategy in a locale far from his Washington office. Meeting with a group of Nebraska farmers in 2010, he told them it was more effective to “hit people in their heart rather than their head,” according to a report on the talk by Nebraska Farm Bureau News. “Emotional understanding is very different — it stays with you. Intellectual understanding is a fact and facts trump other facts. When I understand something in my gut, you’ve got me in a very different way.”

Berman then explained why he believes such attacks work. “People remember negative stuff,” Berman said. “They don’t like hearing it, but they remember it … We can use fear and anger — it stays with people longer than love and sympathy.” …


Full article with illustrative videos here.

Metro Update: North Shore commuting triples

March 2, 2015

On bike, that is.  From Metro Vancouver Update:




Cycling Infrastructure: North Vancouver City & District

​Thanks to a joint cycling master plan by the City and District of North Vancouver, the number of cycling commuters on the North Shore has tripled in the last three years!

These North Shore municipalities developed the plan with valuable input from cyclists.

The master plan links bicycle routes so that a route developed in the City of North Vancouver would connect with a route in the District of North Vancouver, and in West Vancouver if possible, providing a seamless ride for cyclists. An ambitious feature of the plan is the 35-kilometre Spirit Trail to accommodate walkers and cyclists in the three municipalities from Ambleside in West Vancouver to Deep Cove in the District of North Vancouver. Some sections of the trail are in use and it will take about a decade to complete it with clearly marked routes.

Really Bad Ideas from All Over: Mexico

March 2, 2015

Another item in Eric Britton’s ….

World Streets Worst Practices Department



This splendid rendering of a proposed new age mobility enhancement mega-project, purportedly intended to calm the chaos of traffic in Mexico City. …

If we read their rendering correctly the international construction firm behind this excellent project are proposing a total of ten comfortable lanes for cars. Nice! And those sturdy (one hopes) edges they call “Tableta” are the bits that keep all that steel and glass from tumbling down onto the street. (Additional background here and here.)

What chances do you think the hapless (and only) ped (bottom right) has of actually making his way across the street?


Mexico City has already gone someway towards that vision:



The upper freeway is a separate toll road from the Periférico below.  It’s colloquially called the segundo piso (‘second floor’), where those who pay can literally drive over those caught in the congested traffic.

“Ain’t TransLink terrible?”

March 2, 2015

From Michael Alexander:

an item (in the New York Times) for the people who think TransLink sucks compared to transit service in other North American cities.

 MTATic Toc Transit, introduced in August, fulfills one very simple purpose: It tells you when your subway train is coming. …

The app was born of transit experience: Miles Fitzgerald, one of its creators, moved to New York from France about five years ago and became a regular rider of the F train. Mr. Fitzgerald was tormented by his wait on the platform every morning.

“The F train, I call it like an old horse,” he said. “It always works, but it’s just slow.” …

Then there is the obvious catch of using a schedule: The app is not updated with live information, so it’s accurate only when the trains are running on time. …. Tic Toc Transit can provide a soothing illusion of order. But the app that can hasten the arrival of a late train has yet to be invented.

Of course, nobody in Metro Vancouver would even consider creating such an app, because Skytrain service is so frequent that nobody bothers with a schedule. Every user knows that an Expo train will arrive in one to three minutes, and there’s a real-time sign in every station that tells you the frequency during late-night hours.

Ain’t TransLink terrible?


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