Imagine if a city like New York City decided to get rid of five billion US dollars of fossil fuel related stocks in their $189 billion dollar pension fund that pays to retired city workers and school teachers. That’s exactly what they are doing over the next five years as well as suing those oil and gas companies for complicit involvement in global warming.
As reported in the The Guardian New York’s divestment may persuade other cities to divest in fossil fuels and “build momentum in the global shift required to reduce emissions and stave off the worst consequences of climate change.”
“This is a really big deal,” said Jeffrey Sachs, an economist at New York’s Columbia University and special adviser to the UN secretary-general. “Pension funds of other major US cities will follow, I think. New York is the neighborhood of the very big money managers. It’s a powerful, personal signal to them that they cannot keep funding the sorts of projects they have in the past.” Other cities including Paris, Berlin, Sydney and Stockholm are also committed to getting rid of fossil fuel stocks. In fact with groups like the Norwegian central bank, Oxford University and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund as much as 6 Trillion dollars of divestment may happen.
While right-wing groups see such a plan to divest fossil fuel stocks as not a good faith way to create change, Mayor deBlasio of New York City states he is doing this for future generations. But will this divestment and boycott be enough to impact the oil and gas companies? And how will they adjust to lowering civic demands for their products and their stocks?
The Delta Optimist has published a letter that really should have been their big headline. But never mind~Price Tags Vancouver will do it. We all remember the defeated Liberal government’s bandying around of the proposed multi-billion overbuilt Massey Bridge which would have provided ten lanes on the bridge and led to the industrialization of that part of the Fraser River. The ex premier of the province, Ms. Clark actually got on the podium and when asked during the election why this unsustainable bridge to congestion on each side of it was being built, happily announced “JOBS!”.
It turns out that despite what the past Provincial Liberal government said to the public and continually announced, there was another option to the building of this billion dollar bridge behemoth. Specialists from the Netherlands prepared a presentation~on twinning the existing tunnel in 2013. The Massey Tunnel is named after Douglas Massey’s father, and it was Mr. Massey who made a Freedom Of Information request to the then Provincial Liberal government. That turned up nothing. But a more recent repeated request turned up this Dutch Engineering twin tunnel study and it is publicly available courtesy of the new Transportation Minister, Claire Trevena.
As Mr. Massey wrote in the Optimist: “ A meeting was held on April 4, 2013 between the Ministry of Transportation and Tunnel Engineering Consultants (TEC) of the Netherlands to update the ministry on the state of the art of immersed tunneling. The content of the 60-page presentation included introduction of TEC worldwide tunnel projects both recent and proposed, and cost-effective options for the George Massey Tunnel. Special attention was given to tunnel safety, earthquake resistance design and comparison with bridge solutions. The following are quotes taken from that presentation: 1.Tunnels are more suited for various and poor soil conditions. 2. Tunnels are shorter in length than a bridge and have a smaller footprint. 3.Tunnels can be built parallel and close to existing tunnels. 4.Tunnel construction is capable of dealing with severe seismic conditions. 5.Tunnel construction where 80 to 90 per cent of the work could be done by local contractors. 6.Tunnels can be built “safer than an open highway.”
This Dutch team also recommended that they assess the structure and integrity of the current tunnel and increase river depth by using an asphalt mattress instead of riprap. They suggested using longitudinal ventilation and repurpose the existing ventilation ducts as escape pods and for conduits for cyclists and walkers, among other innovative ideas. This report was never made public. As Mr. Massey states ” the former Liberal government never revealed the true facts or alternatives to the public. Instead, it followed the demands of the Port of Vancouver and wrote fear mongering reports that suited its agenda of removing the George Massey Tunnel and deepening the lower Fraser River to suit present and future industrial interests.”
The Dutch have been creating these types of submerged tunnels successfully for years. Looking at twinning the tunnel would preserve the existing habitat and ecosystem of the Fraser, and restrain the industrialization of this sensitive bog and marshland. Why was this report not released before to the public? And is this a viable option for creating more capacity crossing the Fraser River?
As Mr. Massey summarizes that this sensitive area is “known the world over as vital component for a continued healthy ecosystem that supports a migratory food source for all marine and wildfowl life from the headwaters of the Fraser River along migratory routes of the Pacific Coast. May the true facts be known.”
Vicki Huntington needs no introduction to the people living in Delta. Ms. Huntington was the former MLA for Delta South and has an outstanding background of public service. Among her many accomplishments she has been a band manager for the Gitanmaax First Nation in Hazelton, worked with the RCMP in their security services, and consulted with ministers of the Crown in Ottawa. She also served five terms as a Councillor in the City of Delta and two terms as the MLA. She believes strongly in maintaining farmland for future generations and has been recognized for her strong commitment to farming and nature.
Vicki did not run in the last Provincial election for her independent seat~had she run as an independent, she would have been part of the balance of power in the Provincial government coalition. Instead, Delta Councillor Ian Paton of the Liberals won that seat, and currently double dips between sitting on Delta Council (he is paid $62,000 a year plus his expenses) as well as sitting as an MLA where he makes an additional $106,000 plus. Mr. Paton was named newsmaker of the yearby the Delta Optimist, not for double dipping and denying Delta of a more independent voice on Council, but because he became a member of the Provincial legislature. Mr. Paton claims to want the farmer’s best interest but has been unwavering in the support of a multi-billion dollar ten lane bridge which will industrialize the Fraser River, create congestion on either side of the bridge, and purportedly bring more industry to Delta.
What a shame that the Delta Optimist did not recognize Ms Huntington who was the first independent MLA in over sixty years, and the first to be re-elected. However Ms. Huntington has been appointed to the new committee reviewing the Agricultural Land Commission and Agricultural Land Reserve along with eight other members. Their mission is to provide “strategic advice, policy guidance and recommendations on how to help revitalize the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission to ensure the provincial goals of preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming and ranching continue to be a priority.”
There is no doubt that the Agricultural Land Reserve is essential to the health and food security of British Columbia and must be maintained for future generations. Price Tags Vancouver has already written about the City of Delta carving out ten acres of farmland for a “truck staging area” for port bound trucks, and how the Port of Vancouver has another 81 acres of farmland in Richmond to add to their 1,457 hectares currently in “industrial use”. It’s a huge problem~should the Port be allowed to take the most arable farmland in Canada to use for truck and container parking and portage? How can farmers be compensated and continue farming when they can garner economic windfalls from development through port expansion or pseudo “farm estates” to well-heeled buyers?
This new Agricultural Land Commission review committee will seek opinions and feedback and hold meetings with farming and ranching communities. Recommendations could include changes to the way the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission is set up, regulated and administered. This review is badly needed to ensure that agricultural land is reserved for future populations, and to stop speculators buying up farmland for other purposes. The current MLA for Delta South Mr. Paton is already naysaying the committee appointments, suggesting that maintaining land in agricultural use restrains the rights of farmers to get extra income from their land. But farmers and speculators did buy that agricultural land ostensibly for agricultural purposes, and for the future of the region, we must ensure that this agricultural land, the very best in Canada, remains for future generations.
In a pretty dramatic move to halt air pollution, The New York Times reports on China boldly ceasing the production of car models in China that do not meet fuel economy standards for the country. They stopped over 500 different car models effective January the 1st. This suspension impacted both domestic and foreign automobile ventures, including partnerships with Volkswagen and Benz.
China produced 28 million vehicles in 2016 and also has scores of smaller-scale car factories. While there is some credence that this new policy centralizes and consolidates the car industry, “the measure pointed to a mounting willingness by China to test forceful antipollution policies and assume a leading role in the fight against climate change. The country, which for years prioritized economic growth over environmental protection and now produces more than a quarter of the world’s human-caused greenhouse gases, has emerged as an unlikely bastion of climate action after President Trump’s rejection of the Paris climate agreement.”
China is also providing incentives for power companies to operate more cleanly by creating the largest carbon market. While the Chinese government currently has bonuses to produce “clean energy” vehicles, these will be replaced by quotas for clean energy vehicles in 2020. When you have the biggest consumer demand for cars in the world, global automobile manufacturers respond in a relatively positive way. As Michelle Krebs an AutoTrader Group analyst observed ” “The simple fact that China is the biggest market means automakers will be accommodating“. China is now leading the way in auto emission policy, unlike the United States which is looking at relaxing tailpipe emission standards.
This YouTube video from CGTN from January 2017 shows that at that time only one in fifty cars in China were electric, and unfortunately portrays electric vehicles as “cheaper than taking transit”. It does illustrate how remarkable China’s new policy is in demanding the adaptation from automakers to clean energy vehicles in a relatively short time frame.
It used to be that power plants caused a lot of pollution, and coal-fired plants in 2011 contributed to 1.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year. As reported in Bloomberg News today it is cars, trucks, planes and boats that are the biggest source of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution
So how did that happen? While electricity use has not declined, it is now being generated from cleaner sources, most notably by the decline in using coal power. Coal has declined as a source by 33 per cent in the last decade, while natural gas usage has increased by 60 per cent. It is the clean up of the power sources for the electricity grid which has made the major change.
Carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, planes and boats exceeded that of electrical production in 2016, and has continued to widen.While cars are more efficient, the United States is considering under the Trump administration “rolling back the toughest fuel-efficiency standards, which are set to take effect in the early 2020s.”
The development of electric cars and the continuing decline in the price of battery packs will eventually impact emissions. It is expected that by the mid 2020’s electric cars will be the standard for reliability and convenience than the gasoline-powered equivalents. And here is where it gets interesting~”When the electrification of the U.S. auto fleet begins in earnest, pollution from the two biggest energy sectors—electricity and transportation—may ultimately converge. Those electric cars are going draw their power from the grid.”
In the “everything bigger is better” category, the president of Port Vancouver has announced new plans to deal with the growing trend of longer, heftier cruise ships that won’t be able to get under the Lions Gate Bridge and would have taken up the lion’s share of ship parking at the Canada Place cruise ship terminal downtown. The Port’s answer? Propose building new bigger and better mega boat terminals in Richmond or Delta to accommodate those gargantuan large cruise ships.
There is already a proposal for a two billion dollar container terminal expansion at the existing terminal at Roberts Bank in Delta. This is planned despite the environmental impact on “hundreds of thousands” of western sandpipers that are migrating to spring Arctic breeding grounds. These migratory birds feed solely on an algae found only on the Roberts Bank mudflats, nowhere else. And it appear that this algae cannot be moved or replaced, which would mean that this bird migration could become extinct if port expansion proceeds. Delta is also proudly talking about their new parking facility for Port destined container hauling trucks located along Highway 17, also taking out even more of the Agricultural Land Reserve, which also happens to be the most arable soil in Canada.
But back to the Port. Port President and CEO Robin Silvester states in the Richmond News“We’re very early in the process. Cruise ships are getting bigger. When Canada Place was being built, it used to handle five cruise ships, but now it can’t even handle three of the bigger ones that come in at the same time. In fact, if you look at the size of Canada Place, if you were building a cruise terminal from scratch you’d build it the size of Canada Place just to handle one vessel… so it’s a challenge and we’re very good at dealing with challenges.”
In the Caribbean several ports have paid over $100 million to expand their port terminals to accommodate the new cruise mega ships. Building the facilities creates jobs, with jobs also continuing to serve mega port passengers. They are also labour intensive, with heavy demands on transportation and supply networks while the ships are in port. Unfortunately these megaships also cause urban air pollution although they are “smartly marketed as green ships”. They have “emission peaks” and burn massive amounts of fuel oil even when docked. But as the Port Cities Newsletter observes “Cities should not be powerless victims: they could actively shape the future of global maritime trade. Mayors of the major port-cities should discuss if their interests are served with ever larger ships. If the conclusion is negative, they could collectively decide to stop accommodating them.”
Love or hate the idea of Uber, this little gem of a YouTube video clearly outlines what we often forget-we are using huge containers of steel to transport ourselves in and out of cities, and have grown accustomed to norms about motordom that are rather ridiculous.
Produced for Uber, this advertisement “Lets’ Unlock Cities” clearly shows how much space is taken up for the commuting, management, and parking of cars. The YouTube video is below.
As described in AdWeek “The spot is based around research that Uber commissioned that said drivers in nine of Asia’s biggest cities are stuck in traffic jams for 52 minutes every day and spend a 26 more minutes looking for parking. Almost four in 10 car owners have considered ditching their car over the last year, the survey added.”
Uber sees their marketing opportunity in the trend to get rid of individual cars and has a new website, http://www.unlockingcities.com that contains their Asian city research.
It was one of the most prudent decisions of the new Provincial government. Instead of implicitly accepting the proposed ten lane bridge and decommissioning the Massey Tunnel, the new government declared they wanted to know why an overbuilt bridge on the floodplain with the most arable farm land in Canada was the preferred option. They also wanted to figure out why every member of the Mayors’ Council nixed this concept except for Delta, who stood to gain mass 20th century industrialization of the Fraser River if the bridge went ahead.
As reported by the CBC an engineer with experience consulting on public infrastructure projects is the contracted person leading the technical review of the multi billion dollar proposed bridge. Stan Cowdell, the president of Westmar Project Advisors Inc., is expected to report back in the Spring of 2018 with his findings. Mr Cowdell was also involved in the W.R. Bennett floating bridge in Kelowna which was a private sector partnership to design, build, finance and operate the bridge.
Earlier Claire Trevena the Transportation Minister stated that this review would examine whether the ten lane bridge, a smaller crossing, or different tunnel configurations would be the best option. The review will look at the existing tunnel’s lifespan, congestion and safety concerns. All the previously produced information will be reviewed and the need for more technical work may be identified in the course of the work.
The independent technical review is expected to culminate in a report by Spring 2018.
In truly one of the most bizarre events south of the Fraser River, the Mayor of the Corporation of Delta was invited to speak to the Surrey Board of Trade as part of their 2017 Surrey Environment and Business Awards. Subject? Why the business community must force the Provincial government build a ten lane overbuilt multi-billion dollar bridge which will industrialize the banks of the Fraser River. No mention that most of Delta’s economy is based upon trucking and transshipment, with no diversity into more 21st century businesses. Delta needs the bridge to continue their industrial economic base which is all about motordom.
As quoted in the Delta Optimist “The impacts are not just felt in Delta, but in Surrey, White Rock, Langley, even out in the valley. The replacement of the tunnel with a new bridge will relieve on of the worst traffic highway bottlenecks in Canada and save businesses and commuters millions of dollars lost as a result of congestion, accidents and travel delays” the Mayor said.
To the Surrey business community that might not know that you cannot build a ten lane bridge to solve congestion, the Mayor had an enthusiastic audience. The Mayor also trotted out the Angus Reid survey that showed that the business community and residents supported the bridge. Without comprehensive road widening and new bridges at Oak Street, congestion at the bridge will simply transfer to other areas of Highway 99.
The clearest statement comes from the new Provincial Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena who stated We have talked to mayors who were very concerned that their vision for the Lower Mainland was not being recognized. As minister I think this is a responsible way to be acting when you are talking what will be, no matter what we do, whether it is a bridge, whether it is twinning the tunnel or tunnel and bridge combination, who knows what will come of this, but we are responsible with public money. We want to get this right.”
Get a little bit of rain and everyone gets back to business in Vancouver where the The CBC reports on the optimism arising from Greg Moore, the chair of Metro Vancouver and the other cities that comprise this region. Everyone knows that housing affordability and transportation are the two most important factors in every conversation about this region. The relationship with the new NDP government and the Metro Cities has been encouraging so far, in a refreshing type of way.
After dealing with the transportation referendum debacle for Metro Vancouver (which was part of the former premier’s election promises in 2013) the Mayors want to advance the Ten Year Mayors’ Vision they had all agreed upon (except for the Mayor of Delta) . That plan includes increasing rapid transit in the region and replacing the aging Patullo bridge. And that time is now.
With the new Provincial government actually talking to the Mayors and with the multi-billion dollar Massey Bridge (which was unsupported in the region except by the Mayor of Delta) on hold, there are now active talks on working together between the region and the Province to fund the agreed upon transportation initiatives. Instead of the Mayors finding out about the Province’s transportation priorities in the newspaper, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena is following up on her pledge to work directly with the regional municipalities on advancing their agreed upon plan. It was Mayor Mussatto of the City of North Vancouver that said it best-“The (previous) provincial government didn’t really value our input. We didn’t feel like we were playing as equals at the table.”
That appears to have changed, with more open lines of communication and a renewed interest in moving forward with the important task of making this region accessible to everyone. As the Metro Vancouver chair Greg Moore observed about working with the new Provincial government “We have disagreements on different things, but we work through them together. If you’re sitting at the table and working together, although you might have even major disagreements on one topic, you can still work together on other topics.”
It’s a simple and direct approach for these two levels of government to advance transportation and accessibility across the region.
At the end of August Angus Reid conducted a survey of Metro Vancouver residents about their preferences for a new Massey Bridge at the Massey Tunnel crossing on the Fraser River. Remember that this survey was paid for by the Association of Consulting Engineers of B.C. and the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association. Both of these organizations would have a lot of people quickly employed if the multi-billion dollar ten lane bridge was to be built. Indeed, that was solidly in the Liberals’ Provincial election platform-build the Massey Bridge, employ 6,000 British Columbians. Don’t ask whether the bridge is in the right place, is sustainable, overbuilt, or a threat to the estuary. It’s about jobs.
Respondents throughout the region were asked the following survey question: “As you may be aware, the provincial government has developed a plan that would see the four-lane Massey Tunnel replaced with a new, higher-capacity bridge over the Fraser River. What are your views on replacing the tunnel with a bridge?”
Now that question has a little bias-it is assuming the replacement of the existing tunnel with a new, shinier, higher performance huge bridge. Respondents were not given any other alternative. The way it was written and said will of course make folks go for the unseen shiny penny, not the existing plodding tunnel which has been so slandered by the Corporation of Delta as antiquated, congested, and dangerous. Never mind the fact that it has performed like a solid workhorse for nearly 60 years and has 80,000 daily vehicles, and that similar designs to this tunnel are still in daily use in Europe. Let’s not consider that the tunnel technology could be part of a hybrid solution of either twinning with a new tunnel or working in concert with a smaller new bridge.
Local press including The Vancouver Sun’s Stephanie Ip reported the survey results, which (of course) suggested that 75 per cent of regional respondents “said they would like to see a higher-capacity bridge built to replace the aging tunnel.” Those results were even collected by political party, showing that ” those who voted for the B.C. Liberals in the spring election were most likely to support the Liberal-launched bridge project, with 90 per cent voicing support. However, 64 per cent of those who voted NDP also support the project.”
And there’s some interesting stuff-only 37 per cent of respondents in Richmond/Delta, the people most impacted by tunnel “congestion” favoured the new bridge. Which gets us back to why this survey was even conducted in the first place-if you are asking folks farther out in the region what they want for an efficient driving experience, of course a new bridge sounds perfect. But for Richmond and Delta drivers, the loss of Class 1 arable farmland, the degradation of the banks of the Fraser River for industrial businesses, and the honking huge size of this multi-billion dollar bridge brings up more questions about the most efficient way to support regional transportation. An overbuilt bridge in the wrong place doesn’t solve congestion. It merely moves it.
Kudos to the current Provincial government for reviewing the billion dollar Massey bridge and working with Metro Vancouver and the Mayors’ Council to figure out what the transportation needs are on a regional basis. Let’s start planning our transit and transportation to ensure that all residents have mobility and accessibility. Let’s ensure the plan at the Massey crossing is truly the best fit, and considers all the options, not just an “either/or” on an overbuilt expensive 20th century bridge.
Back to the south side of the Fraser River where the B.C. Hydro corporation, a crown agency is already estimating the logistics should the multi-billion dollar Massey Bridge project be cancelled. Because of the previous government’s single-mindedness in pushing for the creation of this behemoth of a bridge, the two transmission lines nestled in the tunnel need to be moved to overhead lines. And doing that kind of work is not cheap.
As reported in the Vancouver Sun by Rob Shaw and Jennifer Saltman, a hydro spokesperson stated: “We’ve informed our contractors that, as a precaution, we’re preparing for the possibility of having to suspend the currently scheduled construction work and have asked for them to identify costs related to suspending their work.” Imagine-it was going to cost Hydro $76 million dollars to move the two 230,000-volt transmission lines. That included temporary housing of the transmission line, creating stable footings, preparing foundations, and of course building access to the line on either side of the new bridge.
The new NDP Transportation Minister Claire Trevena has met with Delta and Richmond mayors and with the chair of the Metro Vancouver board. You can well imagine that conversation, where all the mayors except the mayor of Delta are against this huge ten lane bridge being built on the sensitive Fraser River delta. There are other transportation projects such as the Patullo Bridge that need to be funded. But Delta is still advocating for their bridge to support future plans of industrialization along the Fraser River and bring those tax dollars into Delta’s coffers. Delta has not yet diversified their industrial base into more sustainable operations.
Costs to date for the bridge are $70 million for the pre construction work and the public consultation. There are three proposals to build the bridge, and those are going to be evaluated in late Fall. Each of the unsuccessful bidders are guaranteed a two million dollar consolation payment. As the Vancouver Sun notes-will the payout be to two bidders, or will the payout be to all three? There are already some hints in that Premier John Horgan has made it clear that the Massey bridge is NOT a priority for the Metro Mayors’ Council who have other transportation objectives.
In a previous Price Tags Vancouver we’ve addressed the fact you just can’t build your way out of congestion-doing so just creates more congestion. And that is evident in this statement from Transportation Minister Claire Trevena: “We acknowledge there is a big problem of congestion throughout the (Highway) 99 corridor, but we want to find the best solution and that’s what we’ve been doing is taking our time, looking at what has gone forward, what the alternatives are and working very closely with the mayors for the future.” I am betting the best solution does not include a multi-billion dollar ten lane Massey bridge that reinforces the ideals of twentieth century motordom, where the right to move freely in a single occupant vehicle car precedes environmental and sustainability concerns for the sensitive Fraser River delta.
From CBC via Price Tags Editor Ken Ohrn is the notification that “four of the five members of the Transportation Investment Corporation board, which oversees B.C.’s Port Mann Bridge, have been removed by the provincial government.”
That’s right- “In an Order In Council formally approved on Friday, chair Daniel Doyle and directors Anne Stewart, Clifford Neufeld and former finance minister Colin Hansen had their appointments rescinded.” One person remains, Irene Kerr who is the CEO of TI Corp and will be on the board until the end of 2018. TI Corp is the governmental creation that managed the construction of the bridge and the subsequent tolling on this and the Golden Ears Bridge.
While the Port Mann is not making money as projected from tolls, it is still projected to pay for itself . The 2017 B.C. budget suggested that losses of $88 million dollars in 2017 and $90 million dollars in 2018 are expected. The TI Corp was also to provide “support” for the implementation of the ‘George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project-when will he NDP government be announcing what they are doing with that vast overbuilt project?
Meanwhile south of the Fraser City of Richmond Councillor Carol Day supports the transit idea of the Mayor of Delta who was pleading for a ten lane bridge, and for a rapid transit connection to get that bridge. Councillor Day calls the refusal of the Mayors’ Council to consider rapid transit to Delta the “special sort of short sightedness that is iconic of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. This creates a piecemeal approach to infrastructure that approves individual projects in isolation of one another without sufficient consideration of the future.”
Councillor Day further notes: “Mayor Jackson is absolutely right in saying that we have to think about building capacity for 75 years into the future rather than merely extending existing transit lines. We will be able to plan out a much more efficient transit network if all current and potential projects support each other and a unified vision.”
It is going to be an interesting time as the new Provincial government reviews and unravels the truths and myths about the Massey Tunnel crossing, and evaluates what will work best for the Fraser River crossing in Delta-where, how, and why.
The New York Times reports on a draft report from thirteen federal agencies that is not yet public. The news is not good- “The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years.” This of course suggests the direct connection between emissions and climate change.
How to mitigate climate change? That “depends on future emissions and the sensitivity of the climate system to those emissions.” This report is part of the National Climate Assessment which the U.S. Congress requires every four years. the National Academy of Sciences has reviewed it-the White House (and President Trump) would release it.
It’s no surprise that this report confirms what people in the northwest have already been experiencing-there is confidence that the frequency and severity of warm days has dramatically increased since the 1960’s. “With a medium degree of confidence, the authors linked the contribution of human-caused warming to rising temperatures over the Western and Northern United States. It found no direct link in the Southeast.” The report also noted that temperatures in Alaska and the Arctic are warming at twice as fast as the global average.This rapid warming will contribute to accelerated land and sea ice melting that will impact sea level rise along coastal cities and communities.
There are several concerns, some political with this report-one, the Environmental Protection Agency must approve it, despite the fact that the current agency’s administrator does not believe there is a causal impact between carbon dioxide and global warming. Secondly, there is a concern that the “Trump administration could change or suppress the report. And lastly “those who challenge scientific data on human-caused climate change say they are equally worried that the draft report, as well as the larger National Climate Assessment, will be publicly released.”
How will this report will be translated with a lack of political will and direction into policy and programs? “The National Climate Assessment seems to be on autopilot because there’s no political will that has taken control of it,” said Myron Ebell, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.”
As reported in the Boston Globe, more American cities are taking the attitude that their city traffic flows well without the intervention of pedestrians touching the walk/don’t walk push button. Imagine-remember all those times you were visiting New York, Seattle and London and thought that merely pressing the pedestrian walk button somehow gave you unbridled priority over vehicular traffic? Um, no. Those cities have already decided their light cycles on many major streets.
Even those wonderful Belisha beacons (as in the photo above) are being retired in Great Britain. They are named after Leslie Hore-Belisha the British Minister of Transport that first installed these lights in 1934.
But back to Boston. In Boston “the city sets most traffic signals, particularly during the hectic daytime hours, to a schedule that gives people on foot a chance to cross at regular intervals, while ensuring that drivers get their turn, too.” And thinking that walkers are understandably dismayed at hitting fake “placebo” buttons to cross the street, “Boston officials say the setting is actually aimed at making life easier for walkers by eliminating the need to push a button at all.”
Because of heavy traffic volume in many downtown cores pedestrian crossing time is just incorporated in the intersection timing. “A lot of these intersections were at some point designed more for motor vehicle movements, and later on cities said, ‘Oh, we want to make this more for pedestrians,’ ” said Alex Engel, of the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
Now many traffic lights are simply programmed assuming that pedestrians will be crossing on every cycle. It’s not necessarily a bad thing for walkers, and does slow down and pulse traffic on major streets. As Gina Fiandaca the commissioner of the Boston Transportation Department states “Ideally, the signal functions in such a way that you minimize the wait time for pedestrians, ” Surprisingly Ms. Fiandaca did not give a list of pedestrian intersections in Boston that are on this automatic light cycle.
New York City has removed hundreds of nonfunctioning pedestrian push buttons. It is an odd experience to be on a street without the button, but the cycle time and the walk time in New York City is fairly generous. There’s also an interesting story about Winnipeg who was required to remove pedestrian activated buttons in response to a lawsuit undertaken by an advocacy group for visually impaired and disabled wheelchair users. The 2008 settlement meant that most pedestrian buttons downtown have been replaced with an audible message button. However buttons are still in use in other parts of the city.
But why keep pedestrian push buttons on traffic poles if they really don’t change the traffic cycle? As one Bostonian said “They’re there to calm the tourists.”
There does not appear to be a lot of balanced analytical reporting on this issue in Delta’s press, and you can completely understand why, if residents do not personally go through the tens of reports and thousands of pages provided. No wonder that they’d think this overbuilt, multi billion dollar behemoth of a bridge is the only answer. As Sandor Gyarmati reports in the Delta Optimist, the Delta Mayor and City Manager stated that “the tunnel poses an unacceptable risk for the travelling public and first responders…They are urging the provincial government to consider the catastrophic implications of a tunnel failure, including the devastating economic impacts to the region.”
What? Of course the failure of the tunnel due to a seismic event is bad for the regional economy-let’s not talk about the fact that the tunnel could be seismically upgraded, and if is such an issue, why is that not being done now? But no, the Corporation of Delta is attempting to keep the Massey Bridge proposal on life support. And the Mayor of Delta relies on some misguided reversed misogyny to make her point, obliquely referring to the Mayors’ Council and Metro Vancouver who nixed this overbuilt bridge on the most ecologically sensitive location in the province by saying “It’s a regional boys club and it’s like there’s nothing you can do. You might as well just go home… It really is, I think, a devastating travesty, for the people and the economy. It’s a political thing,”
And in response to City of Richmond Councillor Carol Day who has been outspoken in asking for a review of this multi-billion dollar bridge proposal on the river delta floodplain, the Delta City Manager stated that Ms. Day is “spreading misinformation, relying on an article from a Popular Mechanics magazine from the 1950s.”
There’s a lot more mudslinging but it is not productive to repeat it. What can be said is that at some point everyone needs to look at mutual interests, not positions. And quite frankly an overbuilt multi-billion dollar bridge in the wrong place is still not being productively evaluated. Let’s get going on a non-biased second look as if accessibility, affordability and livability of this region really matters.
It’s not over until it’s over as the Mayor of Delta actually said that the overbuilt overpriced ten lane Massey bridge would be less harmful to the Fraser River than a tunnel. Of course the Mayor of Delta also referred to the disaster scenario about an earthquake and a tunnel, something that is being continually trotted out as the reason that an overbuilt, single occupant vehicle friendly ten lane bridge with no rapid transit provision is good for us as a region. There’s a 14,000 page study done by the previous Provincial government, and of course the very limited no option “open house” workshops on the project which we are told were “very positive” for a new bridge.
In an interview with the CBC, the Mayor of Delta was asked if there was any way she could support a tunnel. “Not unless I became a non-environmentalist,” said Jackson, adding she’s concerned about the impact expanding the tunnel would have on the Fraser River’s marine environment…We’re a huge hub here for transportation nationally, provincially and locally. There’s two million containers coming into the port every year and we’re the hub of all that.” So without meaning to, we are reminded about the Province’s agenda to keep shipping moving across and up the Fraser River which of course is a primary reason for this huge multi-billion dollar boondoogle in the first place. The bridge is in the wrong place for the future development of this region, something that the rest of the Mayors’ Council of Metro Vancouver has continually stated to the Province to no avail. The proposed bridge would aid the further degradation and industrialization of the Fraser River estuary and foreshore. While the Delta Mayor mentions that the First Nations would be upset at any compromise to fishing habitat, there was no mention of the lack of consultation with the Musqueam First Nations, who have claim to the river bank territory that the bridge piers and industrialization would compromise.
A letter from Douglas Massey published in the Delta Optimist takes direct issue with many of the statements being made about the Massey tunnel:
“1. It is not a beat up old tunnel; it is a tunnel whose maintenance has been ignored.
2. The proper lighting together with ceramic tile has been botched from day one.
3. Traffic control to avoid changing of lanes within the tunnel has been non-existent.
4. No attempt has been made to require the port to open for container truck movements 24/7 to ease the rush hour traffic or even request it schedule truck movements to avoid rush hour.
5. Why did the former Liberal minister of transportation advocate that another tunnel just upriver was the best alternative and that the George Massey Tunnel was good for another 50 years?
6. Why is the City of Rotterdam spending $376 million to upgrade the Maas River Tunnel this year, a tunnel that was constructed 16 years before the George Massey Tunnel using the same type of materials and design? The Liberals have stated it would cost $45 million to bring the tunnel up to today’s safety requirements. Would this not be money well spent? It would also eliminate the requirement to remove the BC Hydro lines from the tunnel at a cost of $67 million.”
All good questions. For a multi-billion dollar expenditure, let’s hope we can get a transparent, non biased review.
More hyperbole regarding the rethink of the Massey Bridge has emerged as reported in the Delta Optimist. The newly minted Delta South MLA, former Delta Councillor Ian Paton had previously said at an all candidates meeting that he could not figure out why the City of Vancouver did not “clean up” the Downtown Eastside and said that such a situation “would not be allowed” in Delta. This time Mr. Paton takes aim at the other politicians questioning the tunnel replacement, despite the fact that this project is not supported by Metro Vancouver or by the Mayors’ Council, is overbuilt and will cost $12 billion dollars with carrying costs, will take away the best farmland in Canada, and will be built on a sensitive floodplain.
“Our economy is at stake and the agreement between the NDP and the Green party to kill infrastructure spending for the sake of pursuing their own political interests is putting the province’s future at risk. The fact is that after years of consultation, we need a tunnel replacement urgently, and if you are sitting in traffic daily, you want a solution ASAP. By tossing aside years of consultation, planning, and design work Horgan is essentially saying he is not interested in representing folks in Delta, or B.C. for that matter.”
This is all interesting as it has been a rather one hand clapping kind of consultation, and if anyone with the government actually read through the studies you could see that there is a bit of a bias and a lot lacking in those consultative reports. Couple that with “congestion” that could be ameliorated by simply running Deltaport 24 hours a day like every other port in North America and limiting truck traffic at peak times in the tunnel. Those solutions would not cost billions of dollars. As well all of a sudden the tunnel is not seismically sound, despite previous reports suggesting otherwise, and the fact the same tunnels are in use in Europe with anticipated long lifespans.
The BC Liberal Caucus decided to make the sensible Massey Tunnel rethink issue even a bigger conundrum, saying on twitter that “the NDP’s opposition to the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project puts the economy at risk”. This is the same government that insisted on a transit referendum for Metro Vancouver, and after that failed, offered no solution. Not championing public transit accessibility in the region puts the economy at risk. Rethinking a multi-billion dollar expenditure that appears to be a pet project by one political party, in the wrong place for the region? Not so much.
It is no surprise that as soon as a potential pause was suggested for the Massey Bridge (now approaching 12 billion dollars with financing costs) that fear mongering would come out, as noted in the Delta Optimist. It is one of those things that is going to look very odd to future generations in Metro Vancouver. Here was a massive bridge being placed on the sensitive floodplain and on the most arable soils in Canada, ostensibly protected by the Agricultural Land Reserve. The placement of the bridge was counter to the Mayors’ Council and to Metro Vancouver, and contained no infrastructure to enable rapid public transit. The Liberal government trotted out that it was being built for “congestion” despite the fact that the Port does not operate on a 24 hour time-table like every other port in North America, and that trucking is allowed through the tunnel even at rush hours. The tunnel which is very similar to ones used in Europe all of a sudden was said to not be earthquake-proof, even though earlier studies showed it was.
Many assumed that the bridge was being built to accommodate the draft of larger ships up the Fraser, and indeed documentation has been obtained suggesting this. Recently released materials now suggest that the cost of dredging may be astronomical, which again suggests that twinning the tunnels may be the prudent option.
Green leader Andrew Weaver has suggested that a second tunnel would be a more inexpensive option, and that a new bridge may not be part of the overall metro Vancouver transportation plan. In a moment of clarity that was so lacking from the Liberals going into the election, Weaver noted “that what is needed is a comprehensive strategy in Metro Vancouver for transportation that includes public transportation, bridge retrofits, and may include a second tunnel.”
A cogent response is here from Malcolm Johnston. He states: “Fake news is endemic in today’s world, especially if one does not get one’s way politically…The now reported $12 billion bridge was strictly a political decision and abandoning its construction will, once again, be a political decision…With the Port Authority, now seemingly washing their hands of bringing Panama Max. tankers and colliers up the Fraser, due to the cost of dredging the South Arm, the need for this “back of an envelope” designed mega bridge is gone. What is desperately needed is sound and honest transportation planning for the Vancouver/Richmond and South Delta/Surrey and not … designed to benefit friends of the government, who “pay to play”.
While the Mayor of Delta rues on CBC news that the unsustainable, overbuilt, multi-billion dollar Massey Bridge may not be constructed due to the potential change in Provincial leadership, all the other Mayors in the Metro area are welcoming the chance for a rethink. As reporter Bal Brach noted “Many Metro Vancouver mayors spoke out against the project last summer, saying the bridge was “car-oriented” and diverting money from public transit and other transportation priorities…New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté said he hopes the next government will focus on the priorities outlined by the Mayors’ Council — including improvements to the Pattullo Bridge.”
Despite the fact that the Pattullo Bridge had reached the end of its life expectancy, Provincial interests allowed the Massey Tunnel replacement project to forge ahead of the Patullo. The Richmond News reporter Graeme Wood states that while the Provincial Ministry of Transportation process to award the $3.5 billion dollar contract for the Massey Bridge is underway, no construction projects for the unsustainable bridge will be signed.
If the BC Green Party and BC NDP do form the government, they can scrap the bridge and consider all alternatives. While NDP leader John Horgan wanted to reassess the Massey Tunnel/Bridge before the Provincial election campaign, “all four Richmond NDP candidates said they would prefer a twinned tunnel. Green candidate Michael Wolfe favoured adding an LRT line to Surrey, along the corridor.” The Mayor of Richmond has also come out in favour of twinning the existing tunnel, expanding transit, or banning truck traffic at tunnel at peak hours.
The understanding being worked out between the BC Green Party and the BC NDP includes language “to immediately improve transit and transportation infrastructure” and to work with “the Mayors’ Council consultation process to find a more fair and equitable way of funding transit for the long-term.”
While two contracts worth $17.3 million dollars have been awarded for site preparation at the bridge, approvals will be needed for further work to continue. It is indeed a new day with fresh eyes looking at sustainable transportation movement as if accessibility and regionalism really mattered. Can a tunnelled vision be far behind?