Freight and the City: Canadian Association of Geographers, Montreal, Canada, May 29–June 3, 2001

Freight and the City: Canadian Association of Geographers, Montreal, Canada, May 29–June 3, 2001

Journal of Transport Geography 10 (2002) 83–84 www.elsevier.com/locate/jtrangeo Conference report Freight and the City: Canadian Association of Geog...

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Journal of Transport Geography 10 (2002) 83–84 www.elsevier.com/locate/jtrangeo

Conference report

Freight and the City: Canadian Association of Geographers, Montreal, Canada, May 29–June 3, 2001 A special session ‘‘Freight and the City’’ was organised by Claude Comtois and Brian Slack as part of the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers in Montreal on June 1, 2001. This was the 50th Anniversary meeting of the Association, and was jointly hosted by three of Montreal’s universities: McGill University, universite de Montreal, and Concordia University. In justifying the selection of the theme, the organisers sought to focus on a topic that has received relatively little attention in the academic literature, the emphasis of urban transport research being overwhelmingly oriented towards passenger traffic. Stephane Brice, a planner with the City of Montreal, began by outlining some of the challenges and opportunities the city faces as a multi-modal freight centre. He pointed out that while the position of Montreal as a freight distribution hub is influenced by many external factors, including competition from other cities and technological change, local factors are very important determinants. He gave examples of the site constraints experienced by the port, and the problems of improving access for different modes to the major sites. The City administration has a useful and necessary role to play in helping resolve these problems. This issue was elaborated upon in the presentation of Alain Trudeau, a planner with the metropolitan government, the Communite urbain de Montreal. He demonstrated how major terminals have been establish at different time periods at the edge of the urban area, but because of poor planning controls have become surrounded by land uses that now exert limits on the efficient operations of the terminals. He discussed how attempts by the Province of Quebec to establish clear planning regulations concerning freight movements in the urban area have been adopted very slowly and with inconsistencies. Regulations concerning truck movements are still uneven, so that truckers themselves are baffled by the different rules in force as they cross from one municipality into another. Claude Comtois (universite de Montreal) presented a paper looking at the transport issues treated in the local press in three major Canadian cities, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Content analysis of news stories appearing in local daily and weekly newspapers was

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undertaken to identify the broad topics about which the public was informed. While subjects such as accidents, safety, noise, and pollution might have been expected to be important aspects of press coverage, the actual share of column space by these issues was very modest. The leading stories related to more mundane issues as traffic growth and operations. A second group of issues centred around policy changes, particularly the devolution of airports and ports from Federal control, and the privatisation of Air Canada and Canadian National. Clarence Woudsma (University of Calgary) provided the results of a survey he had undertaken of the truck planning reports of a small sample of Canadian, US, Asian and Australian cities. Diversity and variability of the reports appear to be the main conclusion from his study. While the reports tend to have similar preoccupations with network design and the establishment of truck routes, and with noise mitigation, there are few areas of consistency about measurement units, measurement parameters, and measurement intervals. The treatment of land use was also uneven. Some trends were observed: congestion seems to be positively related to city size, and the age of the truck fleet appears to be much older than widely believed. He concluded by calling for a need to standardise the report and survey methodologies, more frequent studies, and the better integration of land use in freight analyses. Abellard Mezguet (universite de Montreal) spoke of the need for better integration between major transport terminals and the urban environment. He indicated how the pressures are increasing because of the growth of freight traffic in these hubs. He saw the need as being more than one involving land use rationalisation, to be one that recognises environmental and social relationships. Yann Alix (CFORT) examined the specific and general consequences of the Alameda Corridor, a freight-only transport corridor being built in Los Angeles. He described the local impacts, that are expected to greatly improve the connections between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the intermodal rail terminals 32 km away. In turn, this is likely to improve the environment of those living in adjacent zones by taking thousand of trucks each day off the

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Conference report / Journal of Transport Geography 10 (2002) 83–84

roads. He then went onto discuss the broader regional and national impacts of the project, by re-shaping the time/cost attractiveness of the Los Angeles gateway. This corridor is a precursor of other freight-only transport routes that are being developed and considered in other parts of the world. Bob McCalla (Saint Mary’s University) broadened the canvas of the session by considering the issues surrounding the effects of globalisation on container shipping. Recognising the growing standardisation and complementarities in the operations and networks of container shipping lines in ocean space, he noted the divergencies in the patterns and operations of land freight activities once the ships touch port. Each maritime range exhibits significant differences in the patterns of freight distribution to land markets. Citing factors such as Geography, market conditions, and regulatory relations he elaborated on the differences between freight movements in Asia, North America and Europe. His conclusion is that the homogenising effects of globalisation break down when confronted by local uniqueness. The canvas was broadened still further by a paper presented by Daniel Olivier (universite de Montreal) on the epistemology of Transport Geography.

He looked at the major paradigms of academic Geography, from Positivism to Post Modernism, and discussed how Transport Geography fitted into this epistemology. The continued strength of positivist and neo-positivist approaches and methods in Transport Geography is striking. Most of the concepts and models are drawn from this tradition. This is perhaps surprising given the structuralist and critical theory approaches that dominate many other areas of Human Geography. The special session went well, and was limited only by the time allocated by conference organisers for presentations. Each speaker had 20 min to present the paper and respond to questions. There was no effective way of incorporating discussion into the format. Nevertheless, discussions spilled over into the corridors after the session was over. It is to be hoped that we will see these papers in print in the near future. Brian Slack Department of Geography Concordia University 1445 de Maisonneuve Boulevard West Montreal, Que., Canada H3G 1M8 E-mail address: [email protected]