Climate Change
November 13, 2019

The Netherlands Slowing Highway Speeds to Limit Nitrogen Oxide Emissions

Last week I attended the International Road Safety Symposium that was hosted by UBC’s Integrated Safety and Advanced Mobility Bureau as well as by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. This team brought in practitioners from Australia and the Netherlands, where policy work and research mirrors or is ahead of our local policy. A mix of physicians,  police officers , engineers and consultants presented and debated current issues and trends in road safety and active transportation, providing a very thoughtful discussion on how to make streets and roads safer for all users.

Speaker Dr. Fred Wegman is an emeritus professor of traffic safety at Delft University of Technology and is the individual credited with the development of the “safe systems” approach, “based on the principle that our life and health should not be compromised by our need to travel. No level of death or serious injury is acceptable in our road transport network.”

It was Fred  that described the tremendous gains in the Netherlands where there has been a 49 percent reduction in fatalities/serious injuries with the safe systems approach. He also noted the importance of reducing speed as a basic tenet for safety, and that politically elected officials would not be reducing speed to save lives, but would be doing it for basic sustainability reasons. And tied into a greener, cleaner environment and the future, such speed reductions would be accepted nationally.

We didn’t need to wait long to hear the result of Fred’s prediction. The BBC News has just reported that  in 2020 “the daytime speed limit on Dutch roads is to be cut to 100km/h (62mph) in a bid to tackle a nitrogen oxide pollution crisis” 

This information is still confidential, but the disclosed report suggests that the current speed limit of up to 130 km/h would be allowed only in  the night hours.

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Metro Vancouver has managed air quality in the region for decades. As part of this effort, we are refreshing our regional air quality and greenhouse gas management plan.

Join us to learn more about Metro Vancouver’s Clean Air Plan, how we are working to identify and prioritize actions needed to meet greenhouse gas and air quality targets for 2030 that will support the transition to a carbon neutral and climate resilient region by 2050.

  • John Lindner, Air Quality Planner, Air Quality and Climate Change, Metro Vancouver
  • Erik Blair, Air Quality Planner, Air Quality and Climate Change, Metro Vancouver
  • Sheryl Cumming, Project Engineer, Air Quality and Climate Change, Metro Vancouver

Register here.

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In early October the task force set up by the Metro Vancouver mayors came to a consensus and decided that an eight lane immersive tunnel would be the agreed upon option to replace the aging Massey Tunnel. The existing four lane Massey Tunnel still has another fifty years of service, but if used for transit would need seismic work for a one-in -475 year seismic event, and flood protection at entrances. Since these upgrades would be substantial, the task force examined five options, choosing the eight-lane tunnel. Two of the lanes of the tunnel would be dedicated for transit.

The Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council will now review the report and the decision of the task force, and forward their recommendation to the Province. Under the previous Liberal government, the Province had more of a quick and dirty approach which favoured an expansive and overbuilt ten lane bridge with all the requisite overpasses and land usurping ramps. Using the immersive tunnel  technology allows for slope grades  that would allow transit lanes to be converted to rail in the future. While cost estimates were not discussed, it is suggested that the cost of this option is similar to building a bridge. Environmental impacts would result from excavating both river banks, as well as mitigating  damage to existing fish habitats. You can take a look at the report of  the Massey Crossing Task Force here.

While a smaller crossing  at the existing Massey Tunnel with a separate crossing of the Fraser River that aligned up to truck routes for Vancouver  port bound traffic may have made more sense, it appears that cost was a factor in the choice of one bigger tunnel. The fact that this proposed tunnel is being located on sensitive river delta that will be prone to future flooding also needs to be addressed.

This time the Province under the NDP government asked the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council to come to a consensus of what type of crossing would replace the existing Massey Tunnel. Of course a complete environmental assessment will also be necessary, expected to take a year to produce.

There’s no surprise that critics are decrying the fact that the previous Liberal provincial government’s massive bridge will not be built, throwing their hands up about the fact this could have been built faster. But while the previously proposed overbuilt bridge may have proceeded faster, the previous government had no plan on how to manage congestion on either side of the bridge. They never addressed the fact that traffic heading to Vancouver had to throat down to the two lane Oak Street Bridge. It was in many ways a pet project to produce jobs and votes, but did not have the supportive infrastructure to move increased projected traffic anywhere. It was also not supported by the Mayors’ Council with the exception of the Mayor of Delta who has been an outlier and port trucking traffic booster.

And that brings up the concept of induced demand. As described in this City Lab article,  induced demand “refers to the idea that increasing roadway capacity encourages people to drive, thus failing to improve congestion”. 

There is also “Marchetti’s Constant” .

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How to make an editorial comment in a front-page layout …

Not sure how deliberately The Globe juxtaposed an Andrew Scheer profile with a climate-strike march to make a statement about Scheer on the Environment – but it really doesn’t matter.  Scheer did that on his own.

In Vancouver, he took that day when a hundred thousand marched on climate to announce money for highway expansion.  (Because more lanes means less pollution because that always works.)

And that’s got to be deliberate.

Though the message may be oblique, it’s clear evidence that Scheer discounts climate change whether as a political issue or as reality.  He’s basically doing a Harper 2.0 – similar to Stephen Harper’s Arctic tours when the words ‘climate change’ never passed his lips.  Harper’s message to other decision-makers: don’t take climate change too seriously. I have no intention of doing anything drastic.  You don’t have to either.”

Scheer looks to continue that strategy.  Reality might make a difference in Scheer’s indifference, but not mass marches.

Is he, then, an extinctionist?* – the ultimate pragmatist.

I doubt he’s reached the point where extinction of some kind seems so inevitable that it shapes his policy.  But I think he believes he can afford to be indifferent now.

So Andrew Scheer is an extinctionist-in-making.  Perhaps already made.

 

*What’s an extinctionist?  Here’s my definition:

Leaders and decision-makers who accept extinction – minor or major, local and global – as an acceptable outcome of climate change; and justify it in order to maximize power and benefit.

It’s not that they are so sociopathic they don’t care or will even revel in the apocalyptic.  But they are resigned to the inevitability of the threat and believe we are powerless to do anything consequential about it .  They therefore have to accept when making decisions that will hasten extinction, particularly for immediate benefit, that that’s okay.  Not desired, not expected, but possible.  An acceptable outcome to consider.

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The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) and City of North Vancouver present “Let’s Do It Now“, part of the speaker series on Climate Change Adaptation + Momentum in MetroVan.

Wednesday, October 9
7:00pm
The Pipe Shop Venue – 115 Victory Way
City of North Vancouver

Featuring local urban designer Gloria Venczel, SABmag editor Jim Taggart, District of North Vancouver community planner Shazeen Tejani, and Lilian Chau of Vancity’s Impact Real Estate team, the panel will discuss what we can do about the issue many planners are grappling with every day, and perhaps for the rest of their career — what can we do right now to support climate change adaptation and mitigation?

Registration and venue map.

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September 9, 2019

A new phase has started in how we think and write about climate change.  Extinction Lit: considering its inevitability, and what that means.   

Here’s a current example from the venerable New Yorker, by novelist Jonathan Franzen:

 

If you care about the planet, and about the people and animals who live on it, there are two ways to think about this. You can keep on hoping that catastrophe is preventable, and feel ever more frustrated or enraged by the world’s inaction. Or you can accept that disaster is coming, and begin to rethink what it means to have hope. …

Call me a pessimist or call me a humanist, but I don’t see human nature fundamentally changing anytime soon. I can run ten thousand scenarios through my model, and in not one of them do I see the two-degree target being met. …

… a false hope of salvation can be actively harmful. If you persist in believing that catastrophe can be averted, you commit yourself to tackling a problem so immense that it needs to be everyone’s overriding priority forever. One result, weirdly, is a kind of complacency: by voting for green candidates, riding a bicycle to work, avoiding air travel, you might feel that you’ve done everything you can for the only thing worth doing. Whereas, if you accept the reality that the planet will soon overheat to the point of threatening civilization, there’s a whole lot more you should be doing.

And then there’s the matter of hope. If your hope for the future depends on a wildly optimistic scenario, what will you do ten years from now, when the scenario becomes unworkable even in theory? Give up on the planet entirely? To borrow from the advice of financial planners, I might suggest a more balanced portfolio of hopes, some of them longer-term, most of them shorter. …

Any good thing you do now is arguably a hedge against the hotter future, but the really meaningful thing is that it’s good today. As long as you have something to love, you have something to hope for. …

 

Much more here.

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