Governance & Politics
February 4, 2019

Surrey Langley Skytrain — TransLink Website

Skytrain rapid transit continues to be a much-discussed topic in Metro Vancouver.  HERE’s Nathan Pachal, Langley City Councillor and friend of Price Tags, writing in his South Fraser Blog about the Skytrain to Langley being proposed for Surrey.

With the switch from light rail along King George Boulevard and 104th Avenue in Surrey to SkyTrain from King George Station to Langley City, TransLink has set up a new website about the proposed Surrey Langley SkyTrain Project.

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Intrepid Price Tags editor Ken Ohrn has reported on Port Metro Vancouver’s cancellation of  the permit to expand the Fraser Surrey Docks to ship coal to Asian markets. Thermal coal used to produce electricity represents 75 percent of all coal shipped globally, and the fact that Port Metro Vancouver has not fulfilled the conditions for the Fraser Surrey Docks expansion permit is a good sign. But is  Port Metro Vancouver’s cancelling the Fraser Surrey Docks expansion  part of the plan to  consolidate a push forward for the controversial  terminal two (P2) in Delta’s Roberts Bank? Who is overseeing the Port’s expansion plans and do they take in consideration market trends and sustainability?

I have  written before about Vancouver’s  dirty little secret~since American environmentalists blocked a new export terminal in Oregon, massive coal train shipments come to Vancouver docks, now known as  North America’s largest coal port. In fact in 2017 the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority exported 36.8 million tons of coal, compared to 31.5 million tons shipped from its next rival, Norfolk Virginia.

As the National Post’s Tristin Hopper observes  “Much of Vancouver’s coal is handled by a single facility that ranks as the largest of its kind on the continent.Westshore Terminals (at Roberts Bank superport) loaded 29 million tonnes of coal in 2017, nearly triple the combined coal exports of the entire U.S. West Coast.”

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On Tuesday morning I was walking up my street when a commuting SUV honked loudly as a little girl going to school by bike crossed the unsidewalked road. She had been told by her mom to cross the street before the hill so that she could line up with the only sidewalk that is on the connecting  arterial road.  The honking SUV driver came up beside me, rolled down the window, and said that the little cyclist had crossed the road in front of her as if that was a bad thing. And you get the narrative~if there had not been a witness no one could have said what had truly happened, that a driver using the street as a commuting street  went around a corner at speed and could not see the child crossing from the height of her SUV. I told the driver to slow her vehicle down as she continued her tirade about children walking and biking to school.

This is why children don’t bike, and why moms are hesitant to allow their children to go to school by foot or by cycle. We have designed streets, we evaluate streets, and we fix streets so that the most vulnerable of our society are the most disadvantaged by them.

Miriam Moore of New Zealand’s Women in Urbanism nails it when she says ” Road and street networks are so often analysed and assessed regarding their automobile connectivity, that we forget about their function in supporting the street life that surrounds them… Unfortunately, those who suffer from these networks maintaining their predominance, are society’s most vulnerable.”

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The NDP’s Sheila Malcolmson has won the January 30, 2019 byelection, and our Province’s slim GreeNDP coalition lives on.

Now, let’s talk transit.

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The short-term closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle a few weeks ago was predicted to result in massive congestion, nicked-named ‘Viadoom’.

You can guess what actually didn’t happen.

From the Seattle Times:

The Alaskan Way Viaduct carried 90,000 cars a day before it was shut down. Where did they all go?

Since the closure of Highway 99 through Seattle on Jan. 11, commute times have been slightly above average — but have fallen far short of the most dire predictions. And fewer cars and trucks than normal have been traveling on the region’s other major highways.

There have been some bad commutes, and we’ll forgive you for knocking on wood before reading too much further. But about halfway through the longest highway closure in local history, Viadoom hasn’t been that doomy.


From City Commentary:

… this phenomenon of reduced demand is so common and well-documented that it is simply unremarkable. Whether it was Los Angeles closing a major section of freeway to replace overpasses, or Atlanta’s I-85 freeway collapse, or the I-35 bridge failure in Minneapolis, or the demolition of San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway, we’ve seen that time and again when freeway capacity is abruptly reduced, traffic levels fall as well.

… in the next few weeks, keep an eye on Seattle: If the one of the nation’s most bustling cities can survive the loss of a freeway segment that carries a hundred thousand vehicles a day, its a strong sign that more modest changes to road systems really don’t have much impact on metropolitan prosperity.


Clark Williams-Derry at the Sightline Institute has been writing about this project for over a decade, arguing not only for viaduct removal but also that Seattle could actually thrive without a waterfront highway.

From Sightline:

Now, for these few weeks, we get to see what Seattle’s transportation system might have been like if we’d torn down the Viaduct and replaced it with nothing at all. And maybe, just maybe, that experience will offer at least one piece of evidence that Seattle without a waterfront highway could have been a lot more livable than so many of us thought it would be.


After the Viaduct removal, there will still be an eight-lane surface highway in addition to the four-lane tunnel as depicted above.  How long should we guess before there will be a movement to remove the highway?




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Tomorrow, Vancouver City Council will receive a report from engineering about public engagement on proposed improvements to the Granville Bridge that would add safe, accessible facilities for cycling and walking, and connect up to similar facilities at either end.

What might that look like? Details aside, we already know the likely, big picture outcomes — you can see them on Burrard Bridge, and most recently, on Cambie Bridge.

Speaking of which, our friends at small places have a new before and after video called Cambie Connected: Cycling Smithe, Nelson, Beatty, and the Bridge

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It is the question to ask at the City Program’s Simon Fraser University seminar with Autonomous Vehicle expert Tim Papandreou and the question I did ask Ole Thorson of the International Federation of Pedestrians. 

When an autonomous vehicle is going to crash into a crowd of pedestrians, who does the car save? Does it save the vehicle occupants first? And who makes that decision?

Caroline Lester asks that question in The New Yorker. While a “level four” autonomous vehicle is independent on highways, it still needs a human to guide it. “Level five” vehicles will make their own judgements, including  the decision cited in what is called “The Trolley Problem”.

“If a car detects a sudden obstacle—say, a jackknifed truck—should it hit the truck and kill its own driver, or should it swerve onto a crowded sidewalk and kill pedestrians? A human driver might react randomly (if she has time to react at all), but the response of an autonomous vehicle would have to be programmed ahead of time. What should we tell the car to do?”

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Trust the New York Times and Austin Frakt to tell it like it is~driving on your commute to work is hazardous for your health. If ever we needed more evidenced based rationale for why promoting walking, cycling and transit as the only ways to commute, they are right here.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute estimates that in the United States the average commuter is stuck 42 hours a year in traffic.That figure doubles in Los Angeles, and traffic issues are identified as the top concern of citizens over personal safety and affordability.

The cost of lost time and idling fuel is estimated at over 100 billion US dollars a year, along with personal and environmental health impacts.

Another toll is to psychological well-being, stemming from the sense of helplessness we experience in traffic, and its unpredictability. This, too, can be quantified. One study found that to save a minute of time spent in traffic, people would trade away five minutes of any other leisure activity. Another study found that we deal better with the commuting delays that we can anticipate.”

Here is a troubling finding~an article in the Journal of Public Economics documented a link between congestion and domestic violence, finding the examination of one section of Los Angeles highway congestion was associated with  ” nighttime domestic violence” increasing about 9 percent.

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