Appearances are deceiving?

Earlier, we reported the Campbell administration is looking to set visibility goals for wilderness areas and urban areas in the Fraser Valley. But Society Promoting Environment Conservation transportation campaigner David Fields said the Liberals should be more concerned with what's in the air rather than what it loooks like. "Coming from the B.C. Liberal government it doesn't surprise me that they're concerned about appearances on the air quality file," he said. "But our main criticism of the B.C. Liberal government is they don't seem to be willing to do the hard work when it comes to actually improving air quality. Like everybody, we're looking to the upcoming green budget to see if the Campbell government will meet the test. And we're also, of course, looking to see what they'll do on Gateway because everybody expect for the Gateway Program believes it will worsen air quality."

17 Comments

David Fields is SPEC's Assistant Deputy Anti-Gateway Campaigner, not their transportation campaigner. There's a difference. Their chief Anti-Gateway Campaigner is Eric Doherty, who want's to replace the WestCoast Express with a slower and more expensive LRT line, and who claims buses can be run over the Port Mann Bridge if only a cheap $10 to $15 million or so "queue jumper" is built, a topic Doherty will happily talk about anywhere, anytime, but hasn't gotten round to presenting to Surrey City Council or either of the Langley Councils [HINT: The presentation is intended for consumption in Vancouver proper, and to a lesser extent, Burnaby, to be able to say to those people that cheap but highly effective help for people south of the Fraser could be on the way if only the Govt would listen.]

Mr Fields is right in saying that Gateway's commissioned studies showed that the project would probably increase GHG outputs by a marginal 2 to 3 percent compared to a no-Gateway scenario. And he's right that these estimates have drawn criticisms from, .... wait for it, ... Eric Doherty. If Gateway's claims aren't 101% credible, how much more credible is Doherty's 20 page Junior Math/Science Whiz paper on the subject?

The real goal of groups like SPEC and the Suzuki Foundation, who have opposed Port Mann-Hwy 1, but not improvements to Hwy 99, is to serve the economic interests of their wealthy Westside contributors. The environmental schtick is just that, a schtick.

"The environmental schtick is just that, a schtick."

Spoken like a true Socred/Liberal dressed in NDP clothing.

Suzuki, a toady for the wealthy? I sense a great big batch of bitterness in that comment.

I wonder, bleedingheart, if you're aware that the Suzuki Foundation raises and spends $6 million per year. Less than the Fraser Inst at $10 million, but roughly in the same ballpark. The Foundation spends one sixth of that on, ... you guessed it, ... more fundraising. It takes hard cash apparently to really care about Mother Nature these days!

And if you have a genuine concern for the environment, ask yourself this question. What is the Suzuki Foundation's stance on the Tsawwassen Treaty and its exclusion of 400 acres of farmland? If you cannot find the answer on the Foundation's website, email or phone them and ask directly. I did. Do you want to know what they told me? Just ask.

Points of clarification:

1. Presentations by the Livable Region Coalition (LRC) which includes SPEC and the Suzuki Foundation as well as concerned citizens and transportation experts in its membership, have been made to most councils in the region. Some were made by unaffiliated citizens others by those with affiliations. Surrey council, for instance, was visited by the Suzuki Foundation. I met with Mayor Watts and Councillor Barbara Steele in a separate meeting and we went through the issues and options in detail.

2. Gateway Program studies on air quality and ghg impacts have been found to be wrong by Metro Vancouver and the City of Burnaby. Gateway will increase ghg emissions by at least 4% above business as usual. These figures do not include land use impacts of freeway expansion which the provincial government refuses to acknowledge without providing an argument, only saying "this time it will be different".

Here are some questions for David Fields.

On what date was the Surrey City Council "visited by the Suzuki Foundation", who represented the Foundation, and which Councillors were present? Does this meeting show up on the Surrey Council website?

In his own meeting with Mayor Watts and Councillor Steele, did David Fields make any detailed presentation of the "queue jumper" options as outlined in Eric Doherty's material?

If so, can Mr Fields please tell us whether or not Mayor Watts or any other Surrey City elected or administrative officials commented or reacted to the basic premise of Doherty's "queue jumper" recommendation, that a scheduled express bus service can be run across the Port Mann bridge at fairly low cost ($10 to $15 million if memory serves) by installing a bus lane on the south side? What did the Surrey engineering department have to say about this design?

What traffic forecasting models did Eric Doherty use in his critique of the Gateway air pollution/GHG modelling? What forecasting methods were used by Burnaby's Luksun and Ramsey in their critique? What land use projections did they employ to differentiate the "with Gateway" and "without Gateway" scenarios? How did either of the land use projections differ from those of the LRSP and of the OCPs of the municpalities in question?

Can Mr Fields tell us whether or not Eric Doherty is still of the opinion that rush hour commuter trains like the West Coast Express, with park and ride stations, promote urban sprawl? Is it SPEC's position that the West Coast Express service should evenutally be eliminated and replaced with an LRT line, an extension of the Evergreen Line to Coquitlam to Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows? In that event, how long will it take to travel from Ridge-Meadows to downtown Vancouver on the Evergreen, Millenium and Expo lines compared to the present 45 minute time on the Express?

Have Mr Fields and Mr Doherty developed a position yet with regards to the new Pitt River Bridge and the associated interchange?

I find it interesting that the various campaigners hereabouts seem to incorrectly conflate ghg emissions and air quality. An increase in ghg emissions does not necessarily result in decreased air quality. More specifically, based on the design and operating parameters of automobile emission systems the Gateway improvements on Highway 1 will likely result in substantially improved air quality while marginally increasing ghg emissions. The reason for this is that by increasing the average speed for automobiles on Highway 1 the Gateway program will bring the majority of these automobiles into rpm/speed ranges that result in optimum performance of catalytic converters and other onboard emission control devices. An idling or creeping automobile operates at an rpm/speed range that results in very poor performance for the emission systems. By speeding up automobiles you can substantially improve both gas mileage (ghg per km) and air quality parameters (like ozone and particulates). The balance is such that even a 4% increase in ghg will still see substantially improved air quality in the Fraser Valley.

That 2-3 % (or over 4%) increase is over having no Gateway components in 2020. Current projections have transportation GHG emissions in the Lower Mainland increasing by 26% by that 2020. These numbers aren't invented by Eric Doherty, but rather come from the province and Metro Vancouver. It's clear that if we don't do something about transportation, things are going to get worse. If we do Gateway, that worse is bigger and nastier.

Further, I find it worrying that any increase can be called considered "marginal" when climate science indicates a 20-30% decrease in the same period is needed to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. Business as usual is not acceptable, and additional GHG emissions are even less so.

Also, I believe that Eric Doherty's "claim" about the buses and the Port Mann actually originates from Translink documents.

A couple of points just for Budd: that's a broad brush you use for your tarring. Many groups and individuals that oppose the Gateway Project spoke out against the expansion of Hwy. 99. I'm sorry the media did not pick up on this, but that's hardly the fault of the enviros.

Many of the activists who oppose Gateway, myself included, are low- or lower-income folks with no agenda to increase the property values of anyone. I'm a renter of modest accomodations who lives off Clark and Broadway, so looking to boost real estate values in Kits isn't really a high priority for me. I suspect the home owners and renters in Delta and Surrey who actively oppose Gateway aren't looking at real estate values Point Grey as their guide either.

The real goal of groups that oppose Gateway is to see sensible transit and transportation in this region. Their vision of that differs from yours, and that's actually ok. You like Gateway, and so should defend it on its merits, rather than on the defects in character you see in its opponents. Personal insults and hints of conspiracy aren't a great arguement. It's difficult to think of people who disagree with you in human terms, especially on the internet, but I assure you that we are in fact regular human beings.

Further, I find it worrying that any increase can be called considered "marginal"

So there's no such thing as a small or marginal difference. All increases are major.

Many groups and individuals that oppose the Gateway Project spoke out against the expansion of Hwy. 99.

The David Suzuki Foundation did not take a position against improvements to Hwy 99.

Many of the activists who oppose Gateway, myself included, are low- or lower-income folks with no agenda to increase the property values of anyone.

Many of these activists are the well-bred sons and daughters of wealthy Westside property owners, happy to help out the Royal Bank of Mum and Dad by posing as youthful people on bikes and skateboards engaged in a great protest during their college years. In fact, according to the blog of one of these kids, his goal in life once he finishes university is to work for Morgan Stanley. Whatever Morgan Stanley may be, they are not an agency of the poor.

The major complicating factor in this picture is that the wealthy Westside property owners are now being joined in their struggle against any freeway that will lead to more development in Surrey by their up-and-coming Eastside counterparts whose property prices have increased substantially. Many of these Eastside property owners are, once again, the offspring of established Westside families who couldn't afford the million dollar entry level stickers in Point Grey, but who could, with their Yuppie-aspirant salaries and a big boost from the aforementioned Royal Bank, buy a home east of Main. Isn't Vancouver politics lovely?

And then there's the pure suckers, working class tenants who swallow the greenwashed propaganda on demand and let themselves be used. They're happy to be used because they want to be seen as sophisticated, and that means opposing any transportation project that would lead to more population and industrial growth in the suburbs they regard with contempt and derision, labelling their residents "bridge and tunnel people".

Andrew,

Let’s start with the obvious, the vast majority of the 26% increase in transportation ghg is due to population increases predicted over that period. That being said the issue addressed in this post is air quality, I see no recognition in your note of the difference between ghg emissions and air quality. I take it you are conceding that point? Of note to Mr. Fields when he says “everybody expect for the Gateway Program believes it will worsen air quality" he clearly is not speaking for me. As a environmental scientist who is in no way related to the Gateway program I disagree heartily with his statement. As such I would argue that not “everybody believes”, but rather those individuals who have not put in the effort to become fully informed believe. Those of us who have done the homework know that the alternative will be the case. While ghg emissions may rise marginally, air quality, especially in the Fraser Valley, should improve.

As for your statement that “Further, I find it worrying that any increase can be called considered "marginal”. Marginal was used deliberately on my part and has to do with the mathematics and error associated with the model discussed. The mathematical model suggests a 4% increase in GHG, based on the business as usual model. A change of 4% is less than the standard 5% error range used in virtually any modeling exercise. Since the increase is less than the error bars associated with the model calling it “marginal” is appropriate since in a strictly statistical sense the change would not be considered statistically significant.

"So there's no such thing as a small or marginal difference. All increases are major."

From the point of view of climate science, all increases are going to strengthen the impacts of climate change. And a 4% increase of a 26% increase of the single largest source of GHGs in the Lower Mainland is actually quite substantial.

"The David Suzuki Foundation did not take a position against improvements to Hwy 99."

That's wonderful. What about the many other organizations tarred by the "groups like" statement you made?

"Many of these activists are the well-bred sons and daughters of wealthy Westside property owners..."

Granted that I don't do a background check of all the people I associate with, but I'm reasonably certain very few of the people I've worked with on Gateway actions have secret millionaire West side parents. And I notice you don't deal with the strong opposition from Delta at all in your post, as well as the growing opposition in other south of Fraser communities.

As for your points about poseur East side activists being suckered by the secret agendas of the wealthy: very few of the activists (to be sure, there have been some, but not many) I have worked with have expressed disdain for "the bridge and tunnel" crowd. Many, such as myself, grew up lower-to-middle class in suburbs, and are very aware of the poor state of transit south of the Fraser. It's their very familiarity with the lives of suburban people that makes them so angry about the false promise of a highway-building transportation fix. It has not worked anywhere else to reduce congestion over the long term, and it won't work here.

And no one in the Lower Mainland is working on stopping Surrey's population growth, anymore than they are working on keeping the sun from going down at night. Saying otherwise indicates you have no real familiarity with the positions of the organizations that are working on this issue (on the other hand, it shows you're right in the loop with provincial Liberal talking points). Surrey is going to grow, and some people would like to see it grow into a more compact and livable place.

You clearly do not have a good picture of who the people who oppose Gateway are and what their concerns are. I suggest that you stick to defending the project on the merits you see it having until you do. Unless, of course, your goal is to "win" without regard to little things like the actual state of transportation in Metro Vancouver and reality and whatnot. In which case ad hominem can be quite effective, and you should probably continue on in that vein.

Blair,

If I recall my conversations with the air quality guys at the Guildford public forum on Gateway (one of the display-stand-and-engineer things the provice put on) correctly, their projections do predict poorer air quality in a Gateway 2020 scenario. The air quality guy wasn't particularly happy to make that admission, especially once I mentioned he was contradicting the Minister of Transportation on that point, but he did make it. I'm reasonably sure that information can be found in the SFPR Environmental Assessment technical documents that would support that assertion. I will grant that the Gateway 2020 air quality would still be better than today's due to technological innovation (and this is what the province hangs its hat on in the air quality arguement), but worse than a no-Gateway scenario. It's possible the air quality consultant was wrong, but I doubt it. It would be more approriate to say "Many people, including the Gateway Program, believe it will worsen air quality."

I am more than happy to concede my misunderstanding of the term marginal. The point I seek to make, and I'm not sure I've expressed it well, is that any plan than will certainly increase GHGs is a bad idea. Further, something has to give here. By 2020, BC aims to reduce it's GHGs by 33%. Gateway will increase the largest source of emissions in the most populous part of the province by some number by 2020. The contradiction is pretty apparent. If you are concerned about climate change, you pretty much have to ask whether this project is appropriate at all. We can debate the statistical signifigance of 4% (which is still hundreds of thousands of tons of CO2 equivalent, and as Dave states above there are issues around how the province came up with that number), but the province's own figures indicate GHGs will rise. Climate science says this is a very bad thing.

In sum: if climate science tells us anything other than a significant drop in GHGs is very bad, why are we looking at a project that is going to increase them?

And no one in the Lower Mainland is working on stopping Surrey's population growth, anymore than they are working on keeping the sun from going down at night.

Then what is the point of all the comments from Vancouver and Burnaby officials about sprawl in Surrey and Langley? They say they want to stop the sprawl by making sure the Port Mann Bridge is never twinned under any circumstances. If they are not opposed to growth in Surrey and Langley, what's the point of opposing the project they say will create it?

Blair, it seems as though you are making a false choice between "business as usual" and the gateway scenario. I don't think any sane person would advocate for making no changes to transportation infrastructure (other than maintenance).

The Gateway scenario should be compared with other scenarios that assume significant investment in public transit (not a mere $180 million for a few express buses).

Any scenario that does not include a statistically significant reduction in GHG emissions should be considered unacceptable if we are to reduce our emissions by 20% by 2020. Apparently, neither the Gateway scenario, nor the "business as usual" scenario fit that.

As for particulate emissions from autos, I believe that you are partially correct. Traffic that is free-flowing does indeed pollute less than traffic that is stop and go, as long as the traffic is the same volume in each case. If the freeway is built, I would expect a significant increase in its use, hence likely negating any positive effect of free-flowing traffic.

Population in Metro Vancouver will be increasing at an astounding rate in the next 20 years. We need to find environmentally and socially benign ways to accept these people. I do not see Gateway as part of this picture.

Andrew, do you have a source for the SFPR study you refered to in your reply to Blair?

I believe I found such a report once on the EAO site (the agency that the staffers of environmental NGOs like to damn for never refusing a project), but I was wondering if you could point to it so that we are all on the same page.

"Then what is the point of all the comments from Vancouver and Burnaby officials about sprawl in Surrey and Langley?"

Sprawl and growth are not synonyms. The goal for the people who oppose Gateway isn't population stagnation in Surrey, it's a more compact community that keeps it's green space and agricultural land, that's easier to provide with good bus and rail service, and that is a more liveable place.

It helps if you read that last sentence with the music of the Battle Hymn of the Republic in the background.

Andrew,

I may appear to be flogging a dead horse here but want to make something clear. Air quality and GHG gas emissions are not linked parameters. When you talk about one you are not necessarily talking about the other. Carbon dioxide at atmospheric concentrations is harmless to humans. Only at extremely high concentrations (the kinds you will never get with any model ever conceived for global warming) will it hurt you, but only because it is denser than air and will displace air at ground level. Sulphates and nitrate aerosols which will hurt you if you breathe them in, are actually global cooling gases. Ground level ozone is a serious health hazard, in the upper atmosphere ozone has a cooling effect on the atmosphere. So you see we can’t link the two topics.

I’ve no doubt that the air quality dude indicated that GHG emissions are likely to rise but I would bet dollars to donuts that he did not say that air quality would get worse or if he did it was without an understanding of the primary sources of air quality problems in the lower mainland. Idling cars or cars operating below the designed speeds are not able to make full use of their catalytic converters, furthermore when running at low speeds cars don’t typically carry out complete combustion. As a result, by speeding up the average speed of cars on Highway 1 we reduce the amount of energy to get from here to there (thus reducing energy usage and coincidentally GHG emissions) but more importantly for air quality we substantially reduce the production of ground level ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrates and sulphates. The basis of the Ministry of Transportation’s statement of improved air quality is based on this premise. Put simply if you run cars at optimum speeds you can improve air quality AND increase the number of cars. I don’t have the time to do the math to say where the break-even point lies but on an air quality basis improving the Port Mann is a good thing for the foreseeable future.

Sprawl and growth are not synonyms. The goal for the people who oppose Gateway isn't population stagnation in Surrey, it's a more compact community that keeps it's green space and agricultural land, that's easier to provide with good bus and rail service, and that is a more liveable place.

I have seen sprawl defined as low density urban development in previously rural areas. I don't know if that's the correct definition in your opinion, Andrew.

But taking that as given, Surrey and Langley have OCPs that specify certain densities. If those OCPs are realized because there is more freeway transportation, or alternatively because there is more rail/bus transportation, how does that alter the densities specified in the plans? If the specified densities are too low, it doesn't matter if they are realized upon the completion of rail or freeways. And if the densities are high enough, ... it doesn't matter.

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