Monthly Archives: December 2008

In Japan, “cars no longer cool”

An Associated Press artice — appearing in today’s Globe and Mail — looks at how Japan’s younger generations are no longer enthralled with the idea of owning and operating their own automobile.

The reasons for this trend, which the article doesn’t really go into with any depth, are varied, but they have a lot to do with Japan’s exceptional public transit environment. In short, in most major Japanese cities, a car is a lifestyle choice, not a transportation necessity.

And given the cost of gasoline, parking, and frequent highway tolls, “owning a car is more trouble than it’s worth.”

That kind of thinking — which automakers here have dubbed “kuruma banare,” or “demotorization” — is a U-turn from earlier generations of Japanese who viewed car ownership as a status symbol. The trend is worrying Japan’s auto executives, who fear the nation’s love affair with the auto may be coming to an end.

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Filed under Commuting, Japan, Transportation

The fog of city

From Boston.com – The Big Picture – 2008 in Photographs

Downtown Vancouver and Lions Gate Bridge

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Filed under Photography, Vancouver

Transit versus trucks and cars in Metro Vancouver

Earlier this month, a report by Bruce Schaller, New York’s deputy transportation commissioner for planning and sustainability, showed that the influx of residents there embraced mass transit, as opposed to automobiles.

So how does New York City’s success with transit compare to Metro Vancouver?

To compare, TransLink provided me with a document called Transport 2040, released in October of 2007, and containing “key information, statistics and forecasts related to Translink’s 30-year strategy.”

It doesn’t provide an exact comparison with the Big Apple findings. But it does give a good glimpse into the kind of transportation trends seen in the Lower Mainland this decade.

Among the highlights:

  • All parts of Metro Vancouver saw population growth between 2001 and 2006 but it was fastest in Downtown Vancouver and the eastern and southern parts of the region.
  • In 2006, TransLink provided 5.1 million hours and 116.2 million vehicle kilometres of transit service. Public transit ridership has increased significantly over (those) past five years, from 129 million revenue passengers in 2001 to 165 million revenue passengers in 2006, an increase of 23 per cent.
  • But there’s also this:

  • In recent years, the number of cars in Metro Vancouver has been increasing at a faster rate than the population. Car ownership increased by 40 per cent between 1991 and 2006 compared with population, which increased by 32 per cent during the same period.
  • So the question then is, did the growth of car ownership lead to higher traffic volumes? And in Metro Vancouver, which mode of transport is actually winning: transit or traffic?

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    Filed under Commuting, New York, Transportation, Urban Planning, Vancouver

    A future at the farm for urban youth?

    Terrie’s Take, a weekly look at business issues in Japan, reports (along with Nikkei.co.jp) that the country’s government is recruiting urban youth to take up rural jobs — in farming, forestry, and fishing. It’s part of a masterplan to revitalize rural communities in Japan through subsidies.

    The biggest challenge will be finding youths who are willing to do manual labor and live a harsh rural life. Unless recruited in China or SE Asia, our guess is that the recruitees will have to be those given a choice of either remand school or rehabilitation through rural work…! We’re not sure how Japan’s elderly
    farmers will take to such rookie employees.

    Here in North America, this concept has already played itself out in a Paris Hilton reality TV program.

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    Filed under Industry, Japan

    Metro column: Vancouver transport at centre of stimulus debate

    Transport at centre of stimulus debate

    22 December 2008

    John Baird, Canada’s Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, was in the Lower Mainland last week to collect funding wish lists from regional government leaders.

    He and his boss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, want to breathe some life into the national economy with major stimulus projects that will create jobs and bolster consumer confidence.

    Not surprisingly, Baird’s appearance on the West Coast attracted plenty of fanfare. And like toddlers at the mall lining up for their two minutes with Santa Claus, politicians and lobbyists were quick to make their respective cases for the loot presumably coming out of Ottawa.

    It’s hard to blame them. They are wise to the fact that amidst the bleeding from this financial crisis, there is unprecedented opportunity — opportunity to address Canada’s “infrastructure deficit.” Continue reading

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    Filed under Commuting, Environment, Immigration, Industry, New York, Transportation, Urban Planning, Vancouver

    Can John Baird save Vancouver from “Total Gridlock”?

    The arrival of the federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities John Baird in Vancouver — and his musings about stimulus spending in the form of infrastructure projects from coast to coast — has captivated a number of special interest groups locally.

    This includes Get Moving BC, an organization that has made some waves for its aggressive support of the B.C. government’s Gateway program — and the controversial bridge-building that goes with it.

    Here’s what they had to say in a news release issued this week:

    Get Moving BC spokesperson Michael McBratney says he’s pleased to hear that Minister Baird is talking about accelerating the Evergreen Line and says Get Moving BC fully supports such stimulus spending on transportation projects – not only for the immediate social and economic benefits they bring but also for the long term benefits.

    “The province has made a great start modernizing our transportation infrastructure with projects like the Pitt River Bridge, the Canada Line and theGolden Ears Bridge,” McBratney says. “But now we have the opportunity to stimulate the economy and catch up on some of our other badly-needed transportation projects at the same time.”

    McBratney says several economists have recently indicated that public dollars spent on infrastructure like roads, bridges and transit systems, among other forms of public infrastructure, provide the best return on investment when it comes to stimulating the economy during a recession.

    Get Moving BC, you’ll recall, released a study in September which predicted “total gridlock” in Metro Vancouver if “steps are not taken to correct the bridge infrastructure gap due to a rapidly expanding population south of the Fraser River.”

    Needless to say, it’s a sentiment that is not universally embraced on either side of the Port Mann Bridge.

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    Filed under Uncategorized

    Metro column: David vs. Goliath, or fog of bureaucracy?

    15 December 2008

    Last week, while TransLink was talking up expansion plans and funding needs for the future, it was also taking some heat on a very different issue, and from an unlikely source.

    An upstart ferry service is crying foul over the way it claims it is being treated by Metro Vancouver’s transit authority.

    Coastal Link Ferries, which operates a walk-on service daily between Bowen Island and Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver, wants to pick up and drop off passengers at an unused dock at the Waterfront Station SeaBus terminal.

    The prime location would allow its customers to link up with SkyTrain and buses, not to mention the popular SeaBus service.

    The problem is, despite its persistence in trying to iron out a deal with TransLink for the space, Coastal Link — which plans on expanding its service to the Sunshine Coast and Port Moody — has so far heard nothing. Continue reading

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    Filed under British Columbia, Commuting, Marine transport, Real Estate, Sydney, Transportation