I think the idea of a consortium to try out new technologies is a good one, and one that has a long history in transit. What worries me is that this is starting with a technology that I do not think needs to be the first priority. It is understandable, given the high percentage of overall operating cost that is due to driver’s wages and benefits. We have had driverless trains in this region for a long while. SkyTrain has also had significant numbers of people committed to patrolling the system to ensure passenger safety and security.
Recently an incident on the top deck of a British bus has awakened concerns here about passenger security on the double deckers shortly to be introduced here. (Hint: the driver has either a periscope or camera to see what is going on upstairs.) While assaults like this are relatively rare, bad behaviour by passengers is not. For this reason, bus operators are now getting protective screens on the new buses when they enter service. Equally, it is not unheard of for bus drivers to be the first responders in other cases of emergency. And one thing that we have probably all seen for ourselves is the reluctance of other people to get involved when someone else needs assistance. The response time to someone pressing an alarm on SkyTrain has also been an issue on occasion.
While a bus operator may not have all the skills and knowledge of a paramedic or a police officer, they are trained in what to do in an emergency. And often the interpersonal skills that they do have (and are now selected for) have been used to effectively reduce the tensions which can lead to rapid escalation.
There are autonomous buses in operation in France and elsewhere, but so far they have been limited to low speeds, short distances and relatively traffic free areas.
Autonomous Shuttles in Orly-Rungis Park : a First in France on Open Roads ! - YouTube
“The consortium [on the other hand] is expected to purchase 75 to 100 full-sized, autonomous buses that will run at full speed in real service environments.”
This seems to me to be unnecessary at this stage. And one of the things that has been improved in this region since I arrived has been the atmosphere on board buses since the emphasis in selection changed away from “has an air brake license” to “has people skills”. In general, the attitude and welcome you get on boarding the bus has been one of the best features of the ride. It would be a great shame to lose this.
Yesterday we got the bikes tuned up by Velofix (they come to you, which makes things very convenient) and the old, sprung front fork was put back on to replace the solid one I needed to accomodate the electric wheel. I never heard back from the guy who bought the other one, so I do not know if he got it to work. I will be taking all the bits I have left now to the zero waste facility (as the recycling centre has been renamed).
Since there is only one way out of here that does not require a steep hill climb, we decided to put the bikes on the rack of the car. We had heard that there was quite a bit of activity at Iona Beach on Monday – herons and eagles aplenty. That was not to be the case today, unfortunately. And while there were aircraft landing as we rode out along the jetty beside the sewage pipe, by the time we got to the end there was a distinct lull.
Doing this in bright sunlight with a camera that uses a screen (as opposed to a view finder) is not as easy as you might think.
Since we were last at the airport, the extension to the Mall at the eastern end has popped up like a mushroom after rain and traffic over the bridge at 3pm is already heavy before that opens. It was also backing up from Marine Drive as dump truck and trailer had stalled at the traffic lights in the left turn lane to Milton Street. Since this was not immediately apparent to approaching traffic, there were people still trying to queue jump into the turn lane even though it was blocked and cars were having a hard time regaining the left through lane to get around the truck. The signals were not producing any left turn green arrow phases either. I think we spent longer in the ensuing traffic jam than we did on the bike ride.
Next up will be a return to the Richmond Dike, and then probably a trip round Boundary Bay.
Here are some views from the end of the pipe, looking north towards UBC and Howe Sound. I have used the Mac’s photo editor to take out some of the hazy smoke.
The stuff that comes into my inbox these days usually gets a quick once over. Not in this case.
Filmmaker and longest-serving Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) crewmember, first mate to Captain Paul Watson and a captain in his own right, Peter Jay Brown reunites his ruthless cast in this Post Whale-Wars feature documentary that captures all sides of the SSCS from its inception to this very day. Included is even more never-before-seen footage of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Campaigns featuring Renegade Environmentalists and their Guerilla Tactics.
This is a sneak peak of an upcoming release due in the fall this year.
I will admit that I have not seen any of the Whale Wars tv shows. But I have followed the adventures of Paul Watson over the years. And, like many people, I have been appalled by the behaviour of the Japanese and their determination to continue commercial whaling. I am glad Sea Shepherd is doing so well, but I also hope that there will come a day when they are no longer needed, because their mission will have been accomplished.
Image: Director Peter Jay Brown at the help of a Sea Shepherd vessel on campaign
This book was not sent to me by a publisher, nor promoted by a PR firm. It was given to me, by a friend, who in turn had bought it – and three copies more – from his friend, the author, who used to be director of research for Canada’s National Farmer’s Union. Actually that in itself makes for a Good Story, but not one that I am going to get into now.
The book sets out in very readable form exactly how humanity has gotten itself into its current pickle. He is also pretty good at describing the sort of changes we are going to need to make, if we are to avoid imminent disaster – though this section is much shorter than the earlier history. So he is very good indeed on why we need to change, and probably says enough about what needs to be done. Sadly there is not much about exactly how we ought to do that. On present trends, we appear to be doomed by a combination of utter idiocy and selfishness on the part of most of the elite and a sense of helplessness for the rest of us.
In this sweeping work, Qualman reinterprets and re-explains the problems we face today, and charts a clear, hopeful path into the future.
By page count, he uses 250 pages on stating the problem and around 10 on what to do. From the book:
We must make different choices [from business as usual].
We must transform our civilization and its systems of production and consumption.
It is not that I disagree with him. I think he is right. What I find frustrating is his assertion “Solutions surround us.” That may also be true but I do think that they need a bit more elaboration.
I do have to say this book is very well written. When I started reading it I found it necessary to share excerpts with my long suffering partner. A bit like how I cannot enjoy a visit to an art gallery without someone to nudge at the good bits. He has a very good turn of phrase. Whatever else I want you to take from this review is that reading this book was a pleasure, not a chore. I am glad I read it and learned a lot from it. What it did not give me, and maybe this is being unreasonable, is what am I supposed to do about it.
In an earlier article on this blog I made a similar response to Greta Thunberg, who suggests that we need to start building the cathedral even if we don’t know what it is going to look like, but actually we do know. We have known for at least twenty years – which is when this issue first came across my desk – and actually the fossil fuel industries knew that at least twenty years earlier, but decided to obfuscate just as the tobacco industry had done for so long.
In terms of my professional practice, the easiest solutions to identify are what did we do before the cars created all these problems. We seemed to be doing pretty well with electric trains and trams – supplemented by bicycles. Living in compact, complete communities. With an overwhelming need to access better technology for things like eliminating drafts, improving home comfort and cutting down on physical exertion to achieve anything at all. Compare, for instance, the physical labour of plastering a lath wall with installing drywall.
In the US the Green New Deal seems best bet for now. In Canada …
For us, here and now, we have some difficult choices. It may well be that we will indeed see a Green Wave in the upcoming federal election. It seems clear that Scheer is determined to keep on going as we are. He will definitely not be one of the people to read this book. What is critical is that the other parties – who like to see themselves as “progressive” but tend to fall back on “campaign from the left, govern on the right” (both Liberals and NDP are doing this now) – need to embrace change not as “nice to have” but essential to the continued existence of life on earth beyond the 21st century. The Green Party’s effort is pretty good – but perhaps Not Good Enough.
The sad truth – much more than inconvenient – is that the greenhouse gas that has already been emitted way beyond anything seen when there has been life on earth is going to be around for a while. The tipping points are already whizzing past us just like deadlines. Even if we could stop dead and leave it in the ground from tomorrow that will not be nearly enough, and carbon capture and storage will always be promising. It has not delivered anything significant yet – nor will it, in time. And the current occupiers of the decision making seats are happy to announce yet further depletion of forests (boreal and old growth coastal rainforest) on which our future depends.
When the people we choose at the ballot boxes are so ready to abandon their undertakings in the name of “we are better than the alternative” I do not know how to advise you. Reading this book will only help convince you that we need to act more boldly and sooner. I am not sure how we are going to do that but it does not seem to me to really be advanced much by chucking milkshakes at them. However much they deserve it.
Energy, Food, Nature, and the Future
By Darrin Qualman
I just signed a petition – so of course they then send me an email asking for more help. The following comes from My Sea to Sky: it is their content and I have not checked any of these assertions: comments are closed and should be directed to them, not me.
Howe Sound is under threat from Woodfibre LNG, which proposes to construct and operate a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility on the previous Woodfibre Pulp and Paper Mill site located approximately 7 km west-southwest of Squamish.
Why is this project a bad idea?
Woodfibre LNG is owned by Sukanto Tanoto, an Indonesian billionaire that has been found guilty of tax evasion and human rights violations.
LNG tanker traffic puts people that live in Howe Sound, Vancouver, and Victoria at risk, as international safety guidelines are not being followed.
Underwater noise and light pollution will affect salmon migration routes, herring, and marine mammals.
Increased local air pollution will affect human health in the lower mainland, particularly the elderly and kids with asthma.
LNG exports will increase fracking in northeast BC. Over 70% of B.C.’s natural gas is fracked. If Woodfibre LNG project goes ahead it will result in 24 new fracking wells every year.
Site C dam and the eDrive subsidy will increase your hydro bills so Woodfibre LNG can have cheap power.
Woodfibre LNG’s local and upstream greenhouse gas emissions are equivalent to adding 170,000 cars to the road.
Woodfibre LNG staff Byng Giraud and Marian Ngo have donated illegally to the BC Liberal party, while the project was undergoing its environmental assessment.
Talking this morning to a company that imports stuff from Europe. It is currently very late arriving here. Originally it was destined for the port of Montreal, but there have been strikes there, so the container was diverted. It was now to be delivered by ship into Vancouver via the Panama Canal. But for the first time in its history there has been a three month drought, and the canal is short of water. To get containers through in smaller vessels, they have to be transhipped in Cartagena. The port of Montreal is currently unable to handle ships due to flooding and the consequent shortage of railcars.
In the other direction, a container full of door furniture (“knobs and knockers”) destined for a new development in Vancouver was lost at sea when a ship from China was hit by an unprecedented cyclone.
This is going to be the new normal, and will require some rethinking of the trade patterns that have developed in recent years. While there might be comparative advantages in labour cost, the perils of shipping may make manufacturing at at home rather than abroad a more attractive proposition.
I wrote a letter to the Editor today, and just in case it does not appear, I thought readers here might like to know the answer.
Because Professor Christopher Foster of the London School of Economics wrote a paper describing the impact of competition between bus companies in London in the 1920s and 30s which lead to the creation of the London Passenger Transport Board. Traffic congestion has always been bad, especially in Central London, but the behaviour of bus drivers trying to beat each other to the bus stops to scoop up as many fares as possible had become downright dangerous. Mrs Thatcher clearly took a narrow view, and decided that this was a risk she was not prepared to take – in London. Chaos did indeed hit most of Britain’s larger cities after bus deregulation.
By the way, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Railways was more effective with his advice on the privatisation of the railways. He told her that people would be killed. He was also right, but that did not happen on Thatcher’s watch but later under John Major who was notably less intelligent.
I went looking for a suitable picture and found one of the “Chocolate Express” which was accompanied by some useful text. So instead of using a copyright image I am sending you to that page.
One of the reasons that I blog much less these days, is that I got bored with myself. Every time I sat down to write it seemed that what I was writing, I had written before. Even when I was writing that it was repetitive, I kept on. Yet the illusions that beset us continue to be repeated. As if those notions had not already been disproven, repeatedly.
It is a truism, but it takes more energy to refute a falsehood than to repeat. Conservatives rely on this. Almost everything they assert turns out to be untrue. Yet the policies they endorse continue to operate despite their obvious failures. Wealth has never trickled down. Holding down wages has not created more jobs. Making drugs illegal has not reduced their use at all. Increasing spending on the military has not made us safer. Prisons do nothing to reduce crime. Corporal punishment is not effective at improving children’s behaviour.
The left also endorses fatuous policies, ones shown time and again to be ineffective. Mostly deciding to adopt the policies of previous, conservative governments. The BC NDP is doing now exactly what the BC Liberals endorse: Site C, highway widening, cutting down old growth forests, expanding LNG.
Just as we know what we should be doing – reducing ghg emissions being the most important – what we actually do barely scratches the surface and mostly we continue with business as usual.
There is a problem of poverty. Just as providing homes turns out to be the only effective solution to homelessness, so providing money is the only way to relieve poverty. The first thing new Premier Ford did was cancel the Guaranteed Income pilot project – just in case it proved that point once again.
Here we have once again fallen into to happy illusion that in order to deal with poverty – and the fact that some people have a hard time paying their transit fares – we should make transit free. The latest developments here have been an endorsement by Victoria City Council – and now by Kai Nagata of Dogwood who uses Jason Kenney’s swearing in as a hook for a piece about what to do when Kenney “turns off the taps”. Kenney, now sworn in, says he won’t – yet.
It is not surprising that in support of this proposal a number of easily disprovable assertions are made
“Zero-fare public transport is the norm in many cities across Europe. ”
There is a list at https://freepublictransport.info/city/ but it is not reliable. Calgary, for example, is shown on that list, but its own webpage provides a list of fares – free only applies to a downtown section, not the whole system, and pets. Frankly, I am not about to spend any more time checking the veracity of ALL of the rest of the assertions but Winnipeg isn’t a free system either. Bizarrely England is listed as fare free – that may just be a formatting error or a reference to the Old Age concession of a free bus pass. This is of limited value since it does not apply to other modes – trains – and in the deregulated market where local government has been deliberately starved of funds there is little to no socially essential service outside of the dense urban area. The country bus is largely a fond memory. The lack of revenue for the operators (little to no subsidy from local government, no income from pass users) means there is no incentive to increase service.
By the way, Seattle used to have a free fare zone downtown, but dropped it. It is one of the few transit systems in the US that reported increased use last year.
There is a wikipedia article (see below) but it lacks references (though the bit I quote has a source).
The notion that appeals to Dogwood is the mistaken belief that free fares will get people out of their cars and onto transit, and that this will reduce congestion and thus fuel consumption. Nagata simply asserts this belief. The evidence does not support it. The inescapable rule is that traffic expands and contracts to fill the space available. Congestion exists because there is more demand that can be accomodated. Congestion tends to be worst at peak periods – journeys to and from work or education – and on some routes on public holidays – the road to the ferries from Tsawwassen on the Easter weekend being a most recent case. Generally people adapt to predictable congestion but just as a few will try car sharing, or leaving really early, others will drive when it seems “not so bad”. And there is a sort of equilibrium. Like most human compromises one which leaves everybody equally dissatisfied. We know that adding lanes to freeways just increases the amount of traffic, just as removing a freeway usually reduces congestion. The only thing that we know works is to price road use – when it is free it is over consumed – and provide more and better transit service that, as far as possible, uses its own right of way to avoid the congestion. You have to do both. Oddly, pricing roads, even though successful, is much less tried than free transit fares, which mostly isn’t.
Several large U.S. municipalities have attempted zero-fare systems, but many of these implementations have been judged unsuccessful by policy makers. A 2002 National Center for Transportation Research report suggests that, while transit ridership does tend to increase, there are also some disadvantages:
An increase in vandalism, resulting in increased costs for security and vehicle-maintenance
In large transit systems, significant revenue shortfalls unless additional funding was provided
An increase in driver complaints and staff turnover, although farebox-related arguments were eliminated
Slower service overall (not collecting fares has the effect of speeding boarding, but increased crowding tends to swamp out this effect unless additional vehicles are added)
Declines in schedule adherence
This U.S. report suggests that, while ridership does increase overall, the goal of enticing drivers to take transit instead of driving is not necessarily met: because fare-free systems tend to attract a certain number of “problem riders”, zero-fare systems may have the unintended effect of convincing some ‘premium’ riders to go back to driving their cars. It should be kept in mind that this was a study that only looked at U.S. cities, and the author’s conclusions may be less applicable in other countries that have better social safety nets and less crime than the large U.S. cities studied.
So if free transit does not attract drivers, who does it attract? Here it will be the homeless – kicked out of shelters during the day and looking for somewhere warm and dry. And for people to panhandle. The transit police will not be able to cope as without the need for proof of payment, removal will be at best temporary – even if they do manage to persuade the most offensive to leave. It will be gangs of kids. It will be people with nothing better to do than go for a ride somewhere – anywhere. Yes free transit increases the number of people on transit – just not the ones that you wanted to leave their cars behind.
The other reason that people do not leave their cars for transit is simply the inconvenience and relative slowness of transit (all those bus stops) compared to driving. Even for relatively short trips in denser parts of the region, car is still the preferred mode. It is not until there is a clear transit advantage for some trips do people switch in significant numbers. Clearly the expansion of the SkyTrain has worked well. In the parts of the region where additional road space is next to impossible, car trips are being curtailed. Where there is a better alternative, it does get used. More people are also choosing to walk or ride a bicycle – and the option to not own a car, but use ones that are available (Modo, car2go et al) – reduces the need to own a car, and thus try to maximise the return on capital investment. (“It’s sitting in the driveway, I might as well get some use out of it.”) The recent record boost in transit use, and the growing mode share for bikes and walking in Vancouver has nothing to do with transit fares, but everything to do with comparative advantage. And protected bike lanes – not white lines or sharrows.
Nagata also makes the fundamental error of assuming that governments (federal and provincial) will fund free transit. So far, the only thing that they have been willing to do is fund capital projects – preferably expansions – and usually with ribbon cutting opportunities and naming rights (The Canada Line for instance). What has always been lacking is adequate funding for operations and maintenance. Canada, on the whole, has done a much better job than the US. The shameful condition of the New York subway being one of the most glaring examples. Government also likes to play at innovation – which has given rise to several expensive, and usually short lived, experiments like the Whistler hydrogen buses. Instead of doing the essential dull, repetitive non-newsworthy state of good repair and high reliability transit cannot do without. Much of the innovations have not actually been necessary, but one thing that did come out of the imposed electronic fare collection system was essential data on how the system is used. In earlier times, Greater Vancouver saw a complete neglect of data collection as a result of foolish cost cutting. At least some of the newer and improved services now being provided is from a better understanding of when and where people are travelling – despite the lack of tap off on buses. Again, a free fare system loses all that information.
I just came across a quote from the highly intelligent, well informed climate campaigner. It was on Twitter
Yesterday, Thunberg repeated the phrase. “Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking,” she said. “We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling.”
You can see the whole thing on the New Yorker who are impressed by her rhetoric.
So I do not really want to get into an argument with her and on media like Twitter and Facebook these things can get out of hand quickly. But I am pretty sure that the guys who built cathedrals knew exactly how to build the ceiling even as they were working on the foundations. You may recall that I recently posted my pictures of the ceiling of Notre Dame.
If you have been in the crypt of any medieval cathedral you will note a similar form of construction. This is not my picture. It is by Michael Gabelmann who uses a Creative Commons license for his picture of the crypt of Pecs cathedral built in the 11th century.
Abundant Transit on Twitter also wrote today
We have everything we need to solve the climate crisis. Only politics and culture stand in the way.
And that was in reply to Jennifer Keesmat
The fact that #Vancouver has made creating walkable communities a central big move of it’s #ClimateEmergency plan is both a clue + an inspiration to cities around the world. We don’t need gadgets. We don’t need to invent something new. We know exactly what to do.
And, by the way, the record breaking increase in transit ridership here was not due to making it free. Lots more people are using the system because it is convenient, reliable and less hassle than driving. It also looks to be better value for money than owning a car and then trying to find a parking spot for it. In fact we are becoming the victims of our own success as the biggest problem now is overcrowding.
But to return to the climate crisis, what we need to do is first stop subsidizing fossil fuel use. Renewables are already cheaper than coal – and most people who are serious about energy efficiency find that an easier way of saving money than almost any other alternative. We do have to get serious too about inequality. Our society is headed in the wrong direction not because most people are unaware of the need for change, but a few, exceedingly wealthy people, have been working hard to confuse the issue while making unconscionable profits and avoiding paying tax. Tackling that is actually more important than trying to persuade everyone else that they have to change their lifestyle. Although carbon tax has been remarkably effective at quite modest levels. And because we have done not nearly enough for the last thirty years (other than have fairly silly arguments when the science was unequivocal) we now must move faster. But no-one has to freeze in the dark. But bicycles, buses, protected lanes for both – and more passenger trains in North America will all work very well indeed because we know how to do that. We know how to build better places too. Batteries are getting better and cheaper: so are solar panels and wind turbines. We haven’t even started on geothermal – unlike Iceland. It really does look like we will see commercial electric aircraft and ferries here soon too. Everyone loves to point to cruise ships – but they are actually already using electric drives. We just need to change the way they generate the power. Not rocket science. And that is something else we really don’t need. Setting up home on another planet is not necessary – or even very practical.
You might recall that Guy Duancy wrote a book on the same theme. This is mainly aimed at the US readers who need to know about the Green New Deal. Everything under the line is simply cut and paste.
New York, NY – April 17, 2019 – “A Message from the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” the 7-minute animated film presented by The Intercept and Naomi Klein, featuring art by award-winning illustrator Molly Crabapple (“Brothers of the Gun”), has amassed over 2 million views across all video platforms in 8 (eight) hours.
This hybrid of fact, fiction, and art is set at a time when the Green New Deal is a reality and human beings have come together to tackle the global climate crisis in a fair and equitable manner. In this alternative (but entirely possible) timeline, the 2020 presidential election jumpstarted the “Decade of the Green New Deal” and a flurry of legislation kicked off a series of social and ecological transformations to save the planet.
“It is such a pleasure to collaborate with this team of artists and filmmakers, who are helping us imagine the beautiful, safe and inclusive future that so many tell us is impossible,” said Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “Before we can win a Green New Deal,” she added, “we need to be able to close our eyes and imagine it. We can be whatever we have the courage to see.”
“A Message from the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” will also screen during Sunrise Movement’s “Road to the Green New Deal” tour, with eight major national stops and over 100 town halls across America. The tour begins Thursday, April 18, with a gathering at The Strand Theater in Boston, Massachusetts. For additional info on the Sunrise tour, visit their official site.