Seventh Avenue in New Westminster makes up the bulk of the Crosstown Greenway, one of New Westminster’s cycling routes. It cuts straight across mainland New West, avoiding most of the major hills that make cycling in New West a little more difficult than in other areas. Nearly the entire route is marked with sharrows, with no separated bike lanes on it, other than one small part in Uptown.

Because most of Seventh Avenue has on-street parking on both sides, the central “lane” is often shared by bicycles and cars driving in both directions, which often leads to rather crappy results. There are a number of roundabouts along the route as well, which are good for calming traffic but are bad for cyclists as lanes get constricted and cyclists get pinched out by cars.

It’s time for New Westminster to revise Seventh Avenue and make it safer for cyclists of all ages. And here’s how.

First, let’s look at Seventh Avenue as it currently exists. I’m focusing on the stretch between Cumberland and Sixth, as this is used by children cycling to Glenbrook Middle School and the Canada Games Pool. This stretch is 8 metres wide with a 1.5 metre sidewalk on the north side only. It has two nominal lanes with sharrows. Street parking is allowed on both sides of the street.

This stretch is unique in New Westminster in that while it’s through a residential area, there is only one driveway on the south side of the street.Seventh Avenue, package view Every other home has a driveway with laneway access behind it. There are no streets crossing Seventh along this stretch, with only two streets intersecting with it on the north side. Also, if you look at the parcels map for the street you’ll see that there are wide grassy areas on either side of the street that are not part of the properties on either side. This is all city land, and can be used to expand the street.

So let’s expand it! We only need to increase the total width by 2.1 metres, just under seven feet. Then, we reduce the road lane widths to 3 metres, add a 0.6 metre divider (which could include flower planters or even a spot to plant trees), and add two 1.6 metre bike lanes. Allow street parking on the north side of the street, along the sidewalk, as is currently the case. Drop the speed limit on this stretch from 50 km/h to 30 km/h.

We can allow the driveway to remain by opening up the divider for the stretch right in front of it. Add a traffic bollard or two at either end of the opening to make the “car possibly crossing the bike path” location visible and obvious, while also protecting the ends of the divider.

This proposal fixes a lot of problems. First, by narrowing the travel lanes we make them safer. Second, by reducing the speed limit we make the streets safer for everybody — pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists. We can add additional traffic calming such as speed humps to keep cars slow while not needing additional police traffic enforcement. Third, by eliminating street parking beside the separated bike path, we eliminate dooring.

This proposal does come with a couple of minor challenges, mostly concerning what happens at either end of the separated bike lane. At the western end, Seventh Avenue crosses Cumberland Avenue and enters the parking lot for the Canada Games Pool. This isn’t much of an issue as the Crosstown Greenway continues behind the CGP, and can easily tie into the bike lane. Crosswalk call buttons are already installed on the north side of Seventh; they can easily be installed at the south side. At the eastern end, Seventh Avenue meets with Sixth Avenue. Judicious use of green road paint can denote bike paths to access and exit the separated bike paths.

I’m not saying this is a perfect solution. It doesn’t address the problem of pinch points at traffic circles, and the interface with either end of Seventh Avenue is a little difficult to engineer, but I think it’s the ideal location for New Westminster to install the Crosstown Greenway’s first proper separated bike path.

If there’s one thing that really makes my head spin, it’s street parking in New Westminster.

I’m really of two minds about street parking.

On one hand, I really hate it. I think New Westminster’s residental parking permits are way too cheap at $5 per vehicle per year (for renewals — the first year is $10). Compare that with Toronto’s, where it’s currently $14.71 (plus GST) per month for the first vehicle, or 37 times more expensive than New Westminster’s, and that’s only if you don’t have any on-site parking! If you do have a garage or driveway, a parking pass costs $51.54 (plus GST) per month, nearly 130 times as expensive as New West’s! Five dollars a year for a place to store your vehicle is a huge gift from the city that’s only available to car owners, and it’s about time we change that.

On the same hand, I really hate it. It makes cycling dangerous, particularly along streets that allow parking on both sides. The Crosstown Greenway along Seventh Avenue is particularly bad for this, as it has minimal traffic calming and turns into a shitshow during rush hour because there’s only one travel lane on a street that’s about 8 metres wide. Cyclists can either cycle on the sidewalks (which gets pedestrians pissed off at them) or on the street (which gets drivers pissed off at them), and in both locations they’re likely to win a door prize.

On the other hand, street parking does mean that in theory land need not be turned into a parking spot, which could help increase housing density. Instead of being forced to build a garage, a landowner could build a laneway house. New Westminster is currently updating its Official Community Plan with the aim of increasing density in the city, and eliminating (or drastically reducing) the “put in a parking spot” requirements will help do this, and street parking will help fill the void.

So here’s my two-pronged proposal for New Westminster:

  1. Increase the fees for parking permits, and peg them to inflation. I really like Toronto’s two-tier structure, where you get charged a lower rate if you don’t have on-site parking. I also like their structure where the second car costs much more. My proposal is this: $5 per month per vehicle for the first two cars, then $15 per month per vehicle for every car after that.
  2. Eliminate parking minimums for low-density residential, which I consider everything from single-family detached houses to quadplexes. For rowhouses and townhouses, cut the parking requirements in half. For everything larger, cut parking requirements by 25% and have massive incentives for developers to promote alternate modes of transportation. I would really love to see a parking-free condo building like Calgary recently approved, but I doubt that’ll ever happen in New West. But by making street parking cheaper for those houses with no on-site parking, we can promote moving away from land for cars to land for people.

These two changes will make a lot of single-family detached house owners lose their shit. And you know what? Too bad. The single-family detached house is doomed for extinction in New Westminster, and this should be the beginning of the end of catering to this housing option. We need to do more to reduce car use in our city, and single-family houses are the largest source of cars here. If we increase the friction for car ownership, we reduce the number of car owners. If we reduce the number of car owners, we can hopefully reduce the number of cars on our streets, making them more accommodating to other forms of transportation, and making our city a nicer place in which to live.

BC Education Minister Mike Bernier recently toured New Westminster Secondary School at the invitation of New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy. NWSS is scheduled to be replaced, and Darcy invited Bernier to show him the deplorable conditions in the school.

“NWSS is in bad shape,” Darcy said. “It’s really put New Westminster on the map, and we want to make sure that the new school reaches new heights in shoddiness to keep New Westminster in focus.”

NWSS principal Phil Cookson pointed out different areas of concern. “As you can see, we have droppings here,” he told Bernier near a crawl space under the Massey wing. “If we can get the Ministry to build the new school in such a way that we attract more rats to our school, we can turn NWSS into the ideal location to study hantavirus and other airborne diseases. Researchers from around the world will flock to NWSS, which will help inspire our children in the future.”

Cookson also highlighted the secondary benefits of the run-down school.

“Any time we have a leak in a pipe, we have to have a hazmat crew come in,” he said. “This helps keep high-paying jobs in the community, teaches our children about safety and disaster planning, and gives our children ideas about jobs in the future. We are also investigating internships with New Westminster Fire & Rescue Services and local water damage restoration and remediation companies.”

School board chair Jonina Campbell was cautiously optimistic.

“Getting the new high school has been a focus of the school board for a number of years. By upgrading NWSS’s dangerous and unteachable state, we hope to keep this issue in the community for years to come so we have something to talk about during the next election.”

New Westminster Mayor Jonathan X. Coté today announced New Westminster’s expansion into the province of Québec. Local community builders (and all-around great people) Briana and Will Tomkinson are spearheading the future annexation of Montréal with their move earlier this week.

“I cannot be more excited about these plans,” Mayor Coté said. “With their years of experience in bringing communities together in New Westminster, we have high hopes that the Tomkinsons will bring Montreal under the thumb of New Westminster in the coming months.”

A long-time proponent of expanding New Westminster’s land base, Mayor Coté is also not afraid to use force, if necessary.

“While we hope that we will be able to annex Montréal through peaceful means, Will’s collection of axes may be required in the future. We urge the people of Montréal to surrender peacefully.”

The expansion plans to La Belle Province should not have come as a surprise, Mayor Coté said. “I mean seriously, I had the foresight to be born to parents with an accent in their name. These plans have been in the works for a long time.”

And Mayor Coté had the following message for Montréal: “The X stands for ‘expansion’, bitches.”

There are a lot of asteroids flying around in the Solar System. Nearly half a million have been identified and numbered. Not quite as many have been named, because to name an asteroid its orbit needs to be precisely known, and to do that you need to keep an eye on it for a while. Once that’s done, the discoverer gets to propose a name to the International Astronomical Union and then they get to approve it.

There are a few robotic telescopes around the world that scan the skies for potentially hazardous asteroids, and they find a lot of new asteroids. The Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (or LINEAR) program is one of these — they have two telescopes in New Mexico, and since September 15, 2011 they’ve discovered 231,082 new asteroids. They can’t name them all, so they’ve partnered with the Society for Science & the Public to name minor planets after students in fifth through twelfth grades and their teachers. That’s pretty cool.

The IAU has a few naming guidelines that are pretty arbitrary: no more than 16 characters long; preferably one word; pronounceable (in some language); written using Latin characters; non-offensive; and not a name that’s close to the existing names of other minor planets.

Now, you probably have some kind of opinion of the IAU (probably along the lines of “they’re a bunch of idiots for not letting Pluto be a planet”) but generally they do a good job of the sort of nonsense that comes along with attaching an arbitrary name to a hunk of rock flying around out there. And really, the names for the overwhelming majority of asteroids don’t matter to anybody but their discoverer and whoever they’re named after. I could give two figs if asteroid 11955 was named after my astronomy lab instructor at UVic or not (well, it is, and that’s actually kind of cool).

Anyhow, the November 2015 Minor Planet Circular came out. Some of the names were from middle and high school students who got their names on asteroids through LINEAR. Some of the names went to relatives of the discoverer (like (16503) Ayato, named after the discoverer’s grandchild), plants ((15736) Hamanasu is named after a Japanese rose and a sleeper train, and (7613) ‘akikiki is named after a critically endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper), or cities and countries ((110295) Elcalafate and (10072) Uruguay). They’re all very nice names, and in the grand scheme of things mean very little.

Unless, of course, you’re a curmudgeon. In which case you would say things like “such names are not suitable for asteroids” or “it seriously devalues the significance of naming”.

Bull. Shit.

Listen. There are already thousands of named asteroids. Other than the few large ones (Ceres, Pallas, Vesta) nobody really gives a shit what an asteroid is named. They’re pretty much already devalued.

But, and this is a really big but, they’re not devalued for the person that asteroid is named after. The kids who have asteroids named after them weren’t just picked out of a hat, they were all finalists in math and science competitions. They’re doing awesome things in math, science, and engineering, and they get an asteroid named after them for doing those kick-ass things. If you’re a middle or high schooler, wouldn’t that be awesome? You get an official document and everything, and there’s this rock flying around out there with your name on it! That’s really fucking cool. And kids should be celebrated for it!

But some grump on a mailing list thinks that your asteroid is “devaluing” the names of the others. You know what? Fuck that guy.

And I just want to call out one curmudgeon in particular: P. Clay Sherrod. In two messages (one and two) he said this:

Everyone gets recognition today, even for failure; trophies for kids on losing teams, and recognitions for “heroes” who really just happen to be in the right place at the right time.

…and this:

I think where the line should be drawn is when asteroids are being named after inanimate objects: cartoon characters, movie characters, video games, pop songs trivia characters and even places.
The discovery process is part of the growth of humanity and it is, and should be, celebrated by assigning names of those who we – no matter what stature – admire, respect and love.

Naming minor planets after fictitious movie villains and heroes, fossils, plants and places remove the true involvement of human discovery, the process by which our civilization grows.

Thus, the name Kayleigh serves a huge purpose in the advancement of the human race. In someone’s mind, naming a rock after Kaleycuoco makes sense and it is fitting for a “real person.” On the other hand, “Sheldoncooper” is something that really does not exist and should not be immortalized by the hand of discovery.

What self-serving bollocks. His first quote was clearly directed to all of the school children that got asteroids named after them because, after all, they’re just part of the bunch of losers who get recognition for failure, right? Why even bring that up in this context? (I note that there’s no asteroid with “Sherrod” in the name, maybe that has something to do with it.) He’s picking on a group of kids who are definitely not losers and why, because a rock in space doesn’t have a name he agrees with? Fuck that.

And his last quote comes after another member of the mailing list said that he named an asteroid after his granddaughter Kayleigh, who died at the age of 13. Without the story, this asteroid probably would have fallen under the “recognition for everybody” umbrella, so Sherrod had to come up with some nonsense about “growth of humanity” to save some face.

And then the line about “Sheldoncooper” (which is an asteroid named after the Big Bang Theory character) because god forbid we name an asteroid after a fictional character. Yes, there is an asteroid named Sheldoncooper, which I think is a nicer name than its previous name 2007 SP14, even if I think Big Bang Theory is crap.

But TV shows are bad, movies are bad, because… I don’t know, pop culture can’t be a part of SERIOUS NAMING BUSINESS? You know who else wrote pop culture and still got astronomical objects named after his fictional characters? WILLIAM FUCKING SHAKESPEARE. Shit, he got a moon named after a MAID. Honest to god Margaret has like sixty lines in Much Ado About Nothing and she gets a moon named after her. Meanwhile P. Clay Sherrod complains about a teenager doing some fucking mad science getting a minor asteroid named after her?

FUCK THAT.

Last week Global News trotted out a stinker of a news article talking about how SkyTrain technology is outdated and needs to be replaced. They implied that recent system disruptions are an indication of how outdated and unreliable the technology is, and that we’re tied to Bombardier to supply all of the technology in the future, even though it’s outdated and unreliable.

They couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let’s look at the latest service disruption, which was caused by a damaged power collector on one of the trains. The power collector was damaged by a piece of rail that was stored along the track (standard practice in the rail industry) that shifted due to vibrations of trains passing by. What does a replacement rail have to do with outdated technology? Nothing.

How about the service disruption in May? That one was caused by a bird’s nest catching on fire and damaging communications cables. What does a bird’s nest have to do with outdated technology? Nothing.

How about the service disruption in July 2014? That one was caused by an electrical contractor flipping the wrong switch on an electrical panel. Again, nothing to do with outdated technology.

And as for the assertion that SkyTrain is built on outdated technology? That’s bollocks as well.. Bombardier didn’t stop innovating in 1985, and TransLink has been receiving new SkyTrain rolling stock since then. Bombardier isn’t the only supplier of LIM technology, so the idea that we’re somehow tied to Bombardier is wrong. Bombardier is supplying new SkyTrain technology to Kuala Lumpur and Riyadh, so the idea that Bombardier SkyTrain technology is only used in Vancouver is wrong.

I have to agree with Peter Fassbender when he said that “we have a system that was built to a certain standard” and that “you have to be able to take the next generation of technology and integrate it into an existing system.” Nothing is stopping any of the Chinese or Japanese LIM companies from bidding on new SkyTrain projects. We have a rail standard, we have a platform standard, we have a LIM rail standard, and as long as the manufacturer adheres to those standards, anybody can deliver a train that can run on the existing SkyTrain lines. Nothing is forcing TransLink to use Bombardier.

Are some of the SkyTrain components outdated? Yes, and that’s why TransLink is refurbishing the old Mark I SkyTrains. Is SkyTrain technology outdated? No. Is TransLink locked to Bombardier? No. Is the SkyTrain system a “mistake” or a “boutique system”? No to both.

Chloe Ellis, we miss you. Sure, I’m writing while you’re at the only meet-the-candidates event you’ve participated in in New Westminster, but you’ve skipped every other one (including the two that I went to), you didn’t answer the local paper’s questions, and even worse, you didn’t answer my questions. Egregious!

But we all know you’re busy. You haven’t said what you’re busy doing when you’re too busy to meet with people you’d like to vote for you, so that’s up for speculation.

So let’s speculate! Here are the reasons I thought up that would make you too busy to show up to meet your voters:

  1. Skydiving to deliver the game ball for the Hyacks Football homecoming game.
  2. Lobbying the Competition Bureau so New Westminster finally gets a Save-On-Foods. (HEY SHUT UP THIS JOKE NEVER GETS OLD)
  3. Recording another music video.
  4. You refuse to answer anybody who doesn’t put the acute accent into Chloé Ellis.
  5. Lining up for a sweet new iPhone 6s Plus.
  6. Reading over the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, but sorry, she’s unable to tell anybody about it.
  7. Conspiring with all the other Conservative no-shows in planning a massive victory party for Stephen Harper.
  8. Lining up for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
  9. Trying to hack the polls to make the Conservatives look better.
  10. Scouring the local thrift shops to find a red trenchcoat for that perfect Halloween costume.

TransLink is blowing up New Westminster’s community shuttle routes. Or, at least, they’re proposing it. Here, in a nutshell, are their proposals:

  • Discontinue the C3 and C8 routes that service Quayside Drive, Victoria Hill, and southern Sapperton, replacing them with a “New J” route that would service Quayside Drive and Victoria Hill.
  • Discontinue the C4 route that services Downtown, Queens Park, and Uptown, replacing it with a “New H” route that services Downtown, Queens Park, Uptown, and parts of Sapperton and Glenbrook North.
  • Reroute the C9 to service Richmond Street.

Here’s why this is awesome:

  • The C3 is always busy during the morning rush hour. It picks up people from Sapperton before hitting Victoria Hill. Anybody who follows me on Twitter knows that this route frequently leaves people behind in Victoria Hill. Starting the “New J” route in Victoria Hill means it starts with an empty bus, so people won’t get left behind.
  • The C3 is always busy during the evening rush hour. When it leaves from New Westminster SkyTrain Station it’s almost always full, so there’s no room to pick people up at the Columbia SkyTrain Station. With only Victoria Hill on its drop-off route, this means fewer pass-ups.
  • The rerouting of the 154 in 2013 led to a less direct route for seniors between the Royal Square Mall and Uptown. Adding the “New H” route directly addresses this, and restores that vital connection.
  • There are no more bus routes on McBride Boulevard, which is always rammed with people trying to get to the Pattullo Bridge. This means improved reliability, as buses won’t get caught in traffic as often.
  • Combining the C8 and part of the C3 into one route makes sense. Yes, the new route is one between residential areas, which isn’t typically good for routes as they end up being under-used, but putting a SkyTrain station in the middle changes things. Both halves of the route can be full towards the SkyTrain station in the morning, and full away from the SkyTrain station in the evening, and everybody’s happy. I hope that the frequency of service won’t change, as both routes are currently at a cadence of every 15 minutes during rush hour.

These proposals aren’t set in stone, mind you. TransLink is asking for feedback on this and other changes, so go look at the proposals and speak your mind before November 6!

Sasha Ramnarine is the Liberal Party of Canada candidate for New Westminster-Burnaby, hoping to represent us all on a federal level, and he answered my questions to the Member of Parliament candidates.

And remember, the questions (and probably answers) are satire, so if you take them out of context, bad things will happen.

Also, thank you very much Mr. Ramnarine for answering my questions!

The City of New Westminster used to be represented federally by two Members of Parliament (Peter Julian for Burnaby-New Westminster and Fin Donnelly for New Westminster-Coquitlam). Now that New West is only going to have one MP, what will you do to ensure your voice is at least twice as loud as everybody else?

Sasha Ramnarine: I live in New Westminster and I am deeply committed to ensuring the issues of the riding are addressed in Ottawa. I represent the middle class. I didn’t grow up with a lot of money. Since the age of nine working in my family’s restaurant, I have worked hard to ensure that I could pay for my education. I worked close to 50 hours a week through university to ensure I get the quality education that I wanted. I’m passionate about my community and social justice, and have worked and advocated for drinking water rights for First Nations, youth on the Downtown Eastside and mentoring new immigrants to Canada. I represent the challenges and opportunities for middle class Canadians, particularly those in our riding. This is the kind of perseverance and passion I will take to Ottawa as Member of Parliament for New Westminster-Burnaby if elected.

As everybody in New Westminster knows, we have an abundance of Save-On-Foods grocery stores, a situation created by the Competition Bureau. As the Competition Bureau is a federal intitution, what will you do as New Westminster’s federal representative to eliminate all non-Save-On-Foods stores in New West?

Sasha Ramnarine: I will always consult with local residents to ensure what is best for our community. If that means supporting our local small businesses, for example, I will use my strong experience as an entrepreneur, small business lawyer, and chair for the Small Business Council events committee to support and help grow our local small businesses.

Over the past few years we have seen two high-profile protests related to federal projects on New Westminster’s borders: the expansion of Fraser Surrey Docks to ship coal and the twinning of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. Neither of these projects actually happen in New Westminster, which leads me to my question: which controversial federal project will you bring to New Westminster so we can have our own home-grown protests?

Sasha Ramnarine: The lack of infrastructure investments and lack of partnership by the current Federal Government to our local municipalities.

I have a plan to work with the provincial government and municipalities to make bold infrastructure investments for road improvements, replacement of the Pattullo Bridge, more buses, increased Skytrain service and more cycling infrastructure.

Assuming your party forms the government, what will you do to bring the Prime Minster to New Westminister?

Sasha Ramnarine: If elected, I will ensure that Prime Minister Trudeau visits New Westminster as soon as possible. The best time would be when infrastructure projects are announced for our riding. I will also take him to a few local businesses where I enjoy awesome food!

How much money will your party pledge to replace the Pattullo Bridge, knowing full well that we just had a referendum (sorry, non-binding plebescite) where we rejected a tax increase that would supply the municipalities’ third of the pot and any promised federal money wouldn’t get spent anyhow? Three hundred million dollars? Five hundred million dollars? ELEVENTY TRILLION DOLLARS???

Sasha Ramnarine: We will boost investment in public transportation projects by nearly $6 billion over the next four years, and almost $20 billion over ten years. Our funding will be flexible to the requirements of New Westminster and Burnaby, and surrounding areas, in order to maximize the number of better public transit projects, and better roads. Federal funding will no longer be a roadblock to action to building the Pattulo Bridge and implementing other projects.