A Brewery District Follow-up

I want to do a little bit of a follow-up to my previous post about building heights in the Brewery District. I posted that because I kept getting annoyed at Sapperton residents saying things like “Wesgroup mislead us” and “it was eight storeys all along.”

I did a little more digging, and found the McBride-Sapperton Residents Association minutes from January 22, 2014. In this meeting, two employees of Wesgroup presented an update on the Brewery District development site, which includes this:

There will be a total of 4 tall structures with a maximum of 30 storeys, minimum 12 storeys being built.

Read that again. “…minimum 12 storeys being built.”

So in January 2014 the MSRA knew full well that the first residential tower was to be at least 12 storeys high. This meshes with the photos and statements I highlighted in the previous post.

So what really pisses me off is when MSRA acting president Ross Eichendorf says this:

“I’m sure the residents in the area will be glad to see three [fewer] storeys, but it’s sure not the eight they had been representing up until recently.”

“Until recently”? If by five years ago you mean “recently” then yes, Wesgroup has been saying that the first building will be eight storeys “recently”.

But no, you can’t say that you didn’t know that the first building was going to be at least 12 storeys when the information sessions in February 2010 showed models of at least 12 storeys. Or when a story in the New West News Leader in September 2010 said that “the building is still in the design development stage, but said it will likely be over 12 storeys high.” Or when Wesgroup staff came to your meeting in January 2014 to tell you that the residential buildings will be at least 12 storeys high.

“Eight [storeys] they had been representing”? Bullshit.

“It’s a Bait-and-switch!”

Letter to Council, May 10, 2007:

…the proposed bylaw change will enable the developer to go as high as 30 storeys in sub-district 4, 18 storeys in sub-district 3

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7145, 2007, Section 581.3, adopted July 14, 2008:

The maximum height and site coverage of all buildings and structures in each sub-district shall not exceed the height and site coverage set out below.

Sub-Districts 3(a), 3(b) and 3(c) (High Density Residential and Retail): 180 ft. / 45%

Found at Royal Columbian Hospital, February 2010:

(The first residential tower to be built is the left-most in the second picture, which looks to be 12 or 13 storeys high)

New West News Leader, September 16, 2010:

The second quarter of 2011 will see Wesgroup begin to market the first residential tower on the old Labatt Brewery grounds. Nonni said the building is still in the design development stage, but said it will likely be over 12 storeys high.

Render from Bluetree Homes website, January 2013:

(Again, the left-most residential tower, this time 14 storeys high)

New West News Leader, December 4, 2014:

The McBride-Sapperton Residents Association (MSRA) is upset the developer wants to build three 18-storey residential towers and a 30-storey tower along Brunette Avenue as part of its Brewery District development. They have accused Wesgroup of pulling a bait-and-switch from their original proposal of buildings that were much smaller in height.

New West News Leader, January 7, 2015:

“I’m sure the residents in the area will be glad to see three [fewer] storeys, but it’s sure not the eight they had been representing up until recently.”


Referendum Myths: “It’ll Cost You $258 a Year”

The biggest myth being perpetuated by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is that it will cost every Metro Vancouver household $258 every year in new taxes. That is completely incorrect, and here’s why.

First, the CTF’s math. The 0.5% Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax (which I’ll shorten to CIT from now on) will generate roughly $250 million per year to pay for the myriad improvements in Metro Vancouver’s transportation system. In 2011, the Vancouver census metropolitan area (which is pretty much the same thing as Metro Vancouver) had 891,336 private dwellings occupied by usual residents. That number increased by 9.1% between 2006 and 2011, so assuming a steady increase, that turns out to be a 1.76% yearly increase. That means that in 2015 there are roughly 955,762 households in Vancouver. Divide the $250,000,000 equally amongst all of those households and you get $261.57 per year, which is pretty close to the CTF’s $258 per year.

Now here’s why that number is wrong. The CTF is making the assumption that only households will be paying the CIT. That is wrong. Plain and simple, the CTF’s base assumption is wrong.

Visitors to Metro Vancouver will also pay the CIT. In 2014 Metro Vancouver had nearly nine million overnight visits, and tourism continues to increase (and will get better if the Canadian dollar remains weak against the US dollar). In BC, hotel stays are taxed and one can reasonably assume that the CIT will apply here as well. Total spending by overnight visitors was $4.4 billion in 2006, and if you assume that 75% of this is taxable (food isn’t, but tourists spend roughly 25% of their money on food (at least, domestic tourists in the UK do)), that works out to $16.5 million. Take that number, scale it up by 5.5% per year between 2006 and 2014 and you get about $25.3 million per year.

Okay, so 10% of the $250 million will be paid for by tourists.

What about businesses? They’re going to pay the CIT as well! I don’t have any good numbers, but the Mayors’ Council pegs this at 45%. That sounds reasonable to me, but if someone wants to make the case that this number should be substantially larger or smaller, there’s a comment form at the bottom of this post.

Put those numbers together and you end up with households paying roughly 45% of the $250 million each year, or $112.5 million per year, or $117.70 per household per year.

But! The CTF also says, of the $250 million, “…that’s a tax increase – visible and hidden – of $258 per household.” They try to sneak in this “hidden” cost, assuming that businesses will directly pass on any taxes they pay to people purchasing their products. Here’s a simple example showing that is wrong:

There is currently a gas tax of 17 cents per litre charged in Metro Vancouver. Metro Vancouver does not include the city of Abbotsford but does include Langley, which borders Abbotsford. If this gas tax is directly passed on to the consumer, one would expect that a gas station in Langley would charge 17 cents more per litre than a gas station in Abbotsford. Is that the case?

No. That image is gas prices from January 27, 2015. To the west of the red line is Langley, to the east is Abbotsford. The three gas stations in Langley average to 100.6 cents per litre, and the five in Abbotsford average to 89.9 cents per litre, a difference of 10.7 cents per litre. Either gas stations in Langley are eating six cents per litre or gas stations in Abbotsford are charging an extra six cents per litre. I suspect reality is somewhere between the two.

There are also a lot of businesses in Metro Vancouver that either don’t directly charge consumers (mining companies are a good example) or are national (such as banks) or multi-national (such as shipping companies and large software companies). How does a mining company pass on the 0.5% CIT to Metro Vancouver households? How does Microsoft pass on the 0.5% CIT to Metro Vancouver households? They don’t.

How much will Metro Vancouver households pay in CIT? Probably around $100-120 per year. That’s a far cry from the $258 per year that the CTF says they’ll pay. Again, they’re only interested in fear-mongering instead of presenting facts.

And that they use this as a major part of their campaign? Relying on weak and incorrect math to scare Metro Vancouver residents?

That’s pretty weak.

“That’s Pretty Weak, Jordan.”

I was on CKNW on Tuesday talking about “waste” at TransLink, prompted by my post poking holes in the “TransLink is extremely wasteful” myth. Personally I think the interview got a little side-tracked (I was expecting to talk more about the “waste” than general TransLink issues), but people have told me that I did a good job. Thanks to everybody who listened!

And after I was on, Jordan Bateman was on The Jon McComb Show to offer a rebuttal. If you listen, it wasn’t much of a rebuttal.

When Mr. McComb asked Mr. Bateman what the total amount of waste the CTF has found is, Mr. Bateman couldn’t answer, prompting Mr. McComb to say

That’s pretty weak, Jordan.

Mr. Bateman then talked about how TransLink was found to have a cost per revenue passenger about 30% higher than Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto’s transit system, and that this is a sign that TransLink is spending way too much money to transport people around.

Unfortunately that was thoroughly debunked in 2013.

When you consider the amount of bus service hours that are provided per passenger revenue dollar in fares, TransLink significantly outperforms Toronto and Montreal in this regard. TransLink provides more transit service per revenue passenger than other transit agencies.

TransLink can provide the same amount of service hours for just 81% of the cost as the Toronto TTC. Alternatively, for every tax and fare-payer dollar, TransLink provides 22% more transit.

Trotting out debunked numbers to make your argument? That’s pretty weak, Jordan.

And then Mr. McComb asked Mr. Bateman if the CTF is going to release a list of their contributors. Mr. Bateman hid behind an argument that he doesn’t know what the rules are and nobody knows what the rules are, saying that he’d think about releasing them. Keep in mind that they have a post about protecting the privacy of their donors so I think that Mr. Bateman was just paying lip-service to the idea to get Mr. McComb off his back.

That’s pretty weak, Jordan.

Referendum Myths: “TransLink Is Wasteful”

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation released its “No TransLink Tax” platform today, and their second major point is “TranLink is an extremely wasteful organization”. As proof, they offer these six “high waste” examples:

TransLink doesn’t just have one board of directors, it has six – at a cost of $751,589 in annual salary. And after TransLink’s board chair promised executive pay would be frozen “at 2012 levels,” every single TransLink executive got paid more money in 2013.

TransLink spends at least $1.12 million on an empty building. The SkyTrain union head calls the $60,000/month lease payment “outright waste” and a “poor financial decision.”

Despite crying poor, TransLink kicked in more than $30,000 to put a 7-foot statue of a poodle on top of a 25-foot pole. The Main Street Poodle is nowhere near any major transit station, nor is the poodle symbolic of the neighbourhood.

TransLink took months to fix a glitch that saw its ticket vending machines treat new $5 bills like they were $20s. People would buy tickets and get more money back than they put in.

TransLink spent $523,000 on 13 TV screens at various SkyTrain stations. A year later, a CTF inspection showed only 4 of 13 were working. TransLink refuted that claim, saying 6 of the 13 $40,000+ TVs worked – still less than half.

TransLink spent $30,000 studying a gondola up Burnaby Mountain that neither neighbours nor City Hall supported. As Mayor Derek Corrigan said: “[If TransLink is so broke,] why are they going into additional expenses, like the gondola? It’s never been a priority.”

Let’s take a look at those one-by-one and cut some fat off of TransLink’s budget.

TransLink doesn’t just have one board of directors, it has six – at a cost of $751,589 in annual salary. And after TransLink’s board chair promised executive pay would be frozen “at 2012 levels,” every single TransLink executive got paid more money in 2013.

To be properly pedantic, TransLink only has one board of directors. However, it oversees a number of companies that actually operate buses and trains and supply policing services: Coast Mountain Bus Company, British Columbia Rapid Transit Company Ltd, West Coast Express, and Transit Police. I can only find boards for TransLink, CMBC, BCRTC, and the Transit Police, though. Apparently the CTF counts the Mayor’s Council as a board, and magically the West Coast Express has one too. Keep in mind that the Mayor’s Council is made up of, well, mayors, and mayors were elected by the people, and the CTF keeps going on about how TransLink isn’t accountable to anybody because nobody overseeing them was elected, except for this Mayor’s Council, which I guess the CTF ignores when it comes to matters of accountability but falls over themselves to include when it comes to matters of waste, but nobody ever accused the CTF of being consistent.

Anyhow, let’s take the CTF at their word. Six boards. Total cost of $751,589. Let’s cut that down to one board to oversee everything. Assuming equal distribution of funds, we’ve just saved TransLink $626,324.17.

And yes, every single TransLink executive got paid more money in 2013 than they did in 2012. You can see it in the 2013 Financial Information Act Filing and Remuneration Report. In 2013 the seven executives had a total compensation of $2,517,791, whereas in 2012 their total compensation was $2,333,799. Let’s claw back all of that increase, and we’ve just saved TransLink $183,992.

TransLink spends at least $1.12 million on an empty building. The SkyTrain union head calls the $60,000/month lease payment “outright waste” and a “poor financial decision.”

Well shit, let’s dump that! Bam, just saved $720,000 a year. We’re really finding lots of waste here!

Of course, you can’t just break leases like that without incurring penalties. But of course, that’s the real world, and the CTF would like for you to forget about that.

Despite crying poor, TransLink kicked in more than $30,000 to put a 7-foot statue of a poodle on top of a 25-foot pole. The Main Street Poodle is nowhere near any major transit station, nor is the poodle symbolic of the neighbourhood.

Let’s put that poodle to sleep and put that $30,000 in our pocket.

TransLink took months to fix a glitch that saw its ticket vending machines treat new $5 bills like they were $20s. People would buy tickets and get more money back than they put in.

Okay, this is a serious problem. Unfortunately I cannot find any hard numbers (or even soft numbers) about how much was lost here. According to this story it happened four times across the system, and in each case a SkyTrain attendant put the machine out-of-order until it could be fixed. That’s $70 wasted.

TransLink spent $523,000 on 13 TV screens at various SkyTrain stations. A year later, a CTF inspection showed only 4 of 13 were working. TransLink refuted that claim, saying 6 of the 13 $40,000+ TVs worked – still less than half.

Okay, so seven broke. That’s $281,615 wasted.

TransLink spent $30,000 studying a gondola up Burnaby Mountain that neither neighbours nor City Hall supported. As Mayor Derek Corrigan said: “[If TransLink is so broke,] why are they going into additional expenses, like the gondola? It’s never been a priority.”

Mayor Corrigan is right: TransLink shouldn’t do studies on opening up new transit routes, especially to a location that gets snowed in nearly every year, making it impossible for buses to get to. Let’s just say that’s $30,000 wasted.

Well, that’s an awful lot of waste! By my calculations that’s a total of $1,872,001 wasted. Don’t forget that a big chunk of that ($720,000) would come with penalties that TransLink would have to pay. But still, nearly $1.9 million dollars of waste!

But let’s put that into context. TransLink’s expenditures in 2013 were $1.406 billion (which was actually down from $1.430 billion, thanks to identifying cost inefficiencies). $1.872 million out of $1.430 billion is 0.13%. That’s miniscule, and it’s nearly thirteen times smaller than efficiency savings that TransLink already found.

So TransLink is already identifying areas where it can be more efficient. It’s saved $26 million from 2012 to 2013. And the Canadian Taxpayers Foundation is saying TransLink is incredibly wasteful, and their “big waste” items only come to $1.9 million? Really?

Ever heard of the phrase “trying to squeeze blood from a stone”? Or how about “scraping the bottom of the barrel”? Because that’s what the CTF is trying to do. And they’re throwing these numbers out without any context to scare people.

Look at the facts. The facts say that TransLink is already identifying inefficiencies, and there’s not much left to find. Even if all of the identified cruft and waste is trimmed (and that’s not realistic), that only gains you 0.13%, which is miniscule. Put it this way: if you make $25/hr, and you suddenly get a 0.13% raise, do you know how much you make? $25.03. An extra quarter a day.

Does that sound like an “extremely wasteful organization”?

It doesn’t to me. What it sounds like is the CTF is blowing scare tactics all around and hoping that people don’t stop to think. It sounds like the CTF assumes people are stupid and will see EXTREMELY WASTEFUL ORGANIZATION without any context, and then just parrot the CTF’s line.

The CTF thinks you’re stupid and will just eat this up. Show them that you’re not. Show them that these context-free factoids aren’t going to fool you. Show them that we don’t have to listen to their rhetoric.

Regarding Translink’s ‘Fare Not Paid’ Button

On January 6, 2015, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation put out a press release stating

TransLink bus drivers pressed a special button in their coaches to record a “fare not paid” more than 2.76 million times in 2013…

2.76 million times! That’s a lot of button presses and a huge amount of fare evasion! Like Jordan Bateman, the CTF’s BC Director, said:

These bus drivers should be checked for carpal tunnel syndrome from having to repeatedly push that fare evasion button. TransLink executives have turned a blind eye to millions of fare cheats, causing unnecessary financial grief for honest riders and taxpayers.

Indeed! TransLink executives really don’t give a shit about fare cheats. They have no fucks to give about fare cheats. They put up giant signs saying “FARE CHEATS WELCOME HERE” on every bus.

Well, no, they didn’t. That’s hyperbolic. And so are the statements from Jordan Bateman and the CTF.

With no context, 2.76 million presses of the “fare not paid” button sounds like a lot, and it is. But each one of those button presses isn’t someone refusing to pay their fare. If you read the actual document you’ll find this:

A “fare not paid” entry can represent one of a range of fare-related discrepancies. An issue can include: a partial payment of fare; overpayment of a fare into a bus fare box, which cannot dispense change; failure of a passenger to AddFare when travelling across zones; or fare evasion. It is not the intent of this tool to document revenue loss.

So those 2.76 million button presses were not 2.76 million instances of fare evasion. Some of them were because someone paid, but not enough. Some of them were because someone paid too much!

Strangely, the CTF press release makes no mention of that, instead labelling every one of these button presses as caused by “fare cheats” and “freeloaders”.

With no context, 2.76 million presses of the “fare not paid” button sounds like a lot, and it is. But how many people boarded buses in 2013? If it’s five million, then TransLink’s got a huge problem. If it’s 50 million, then TransLink still has a problem with a potential “fare loss” of about 5.5%.

TransLink didn’t have 5 million bus boardings in 2013. It didn’t have 50 million. It didn’t even have 100 million. In 2013, TransLink had 228 million bus boardings (from Page 9 of their 2013 Bus Service Performance Review). Is 2.76 million out of 228 million still a huge problem? It’s 1.2% of bus riders. One point two percent.

That’s what happens when you take raw numbers out of context. You can take those numbers and have them fit your narrative. In Jordan Bateman’s narrative, TransLink is horribly wasteful and not deserving of any tax dollars. Finding “fare cheats” and “freeloaders” is easy to do when you just yell TWO POINT SEVEN SIX MILLION FARES NOT PAID without giving any context whatsoever. Unfortunately, reality tends to illuminate these context-free statements, showing that Jordan Bateman and the CTF are being intellectually dishonest on this issue.

The Boondoggle of Eighth Street

I have a lot of issues with the bus and pedestrian flow on the streets and sidewalks around the New Westminster Skytrain Station. Just so we’re all on the same page, here’s a map:

Because Google Maps is helpful, it didn’t label Eighth Street. It’s the big one that runs between the Old Spaghetti Factory and Ki Sushi.

First issue I have: Driving down Eighth towards Columbia, between Royal Avenue (off the top of the map) and Carnarvon Street, Eighth is two lanes in either direction. After Carnarvon, it’s one lane in each direction. One of the problems is that this isn’t very well marked before Carnarvon. There’s one sign and it’s off on the sidewalk, behind a wide angled-parking section, and it’s easily missed. Eighth, heading downhill, is wide enough for two lanes, and this throws people off.

There’s also a forced-left turn with a central island that’s used for getting into the underground parking at the Anvil Centre. I’ve seen drivers get stuck in this left-turn lane when they didn’t want to, so they cut into the oncoming lane and continue down Eighth.

Both of these confuse drivers in the mid-block of Eighth between Carnarvon and Columbia, and confused drivers are often inattentive while they figure out where they’re supposed to be going. Couple that with…

…my second issue: no crosswalk across Eighth between Columbia and Carnarvon. There used to be one, and people still jaywalk across there. Right under the Skytrain is where one of the station exits is, and if you’re going across the street (say, to Ki Sishi) then you’re likely going to jaywalk. Jaywalking pedestrians, combined with inattentive drivers, leads to potential disaster. Yes, there are crosswalks at Carnarvon and Columbia, but people are lazy.

From Patrick Johnstone’s post back in 2011 about the Multi-Use Civic Facility (now the Anvil Centre):

Before that crosswalk was installed, people walking out of the Skytrain wanting to cross 8th were asked to walk up or down the street a half block, in the rain, to the corner of Columbia or Carnarvon. The mid-block crossing not only provided a more direct crossing, it offered the rain shelter of the Skytrain line. Naturally, people jaywalked, creating a safety hazard for cars and busses before the crosswalk was installed.

With new retail and restaurant activities on the east side of 8th, the pedestrian traffic will only increase. Does the City think the people coming out of the Skytrain will now walk to the corner of Columbia (in the rain), wait for a light (in the rain) then cross, to get to he MUCF from the Skytrain, or from Plaza 88? Of course they will stay under the cover of the Skytrain, and they will Jaywalk, right in front of cars pulling into or out of the MUCF. Conflict will ensue. Someone may get killed.

To fix these two combined issues, I would suggest making the right-hand lane on Eighth before Carnarvon a right-turn-only turn lane with large, visible markings on the roadway, along with overhead signage (specifically R-82R in the Manual of Standard Traffic Signs & Pavement Markings). I would also suggest reinstating the crosswalk across Eighth, but adding pedestrian-controlled flashing warning lights, similar to those outside the library on Sixth Avenue.

My third issue is the bus stops.

Along Eighth there are two, one for the C3 and one for the C4. Both of them turn left off Eighth up Columbia. Here’s a little Google Earth map with some really crappy lines:

Red lines are curbs. The pink lines mark out the loading zone driveway that services the Shops at New West. The red polygon in the middle of Eighth marks out the forced left turn to get into the underground parking at the Anvil Centre. The green line is where passengers line up to catch the C3.

Do you see how the C3 passenger line bleeds into the loading zone driveway? That happens every single day in the evening rush hour, when more than 15 people are waiting for the bus.

It is horrible HORRIBLE design to have the passenger line crossing a driveway. I don’t know who thought this might be a good idea, but they need to be fired. This stop has been situated like this for at least a year with no change in sight. This can be fixed by swapping the C3 stop with the C9 stop, which is located underneath the Skytrain station. Ridership on the C9 is lower than the C3, so the C9 lines don’t get as long and won’t spill into the driveway.

The C3 and the C4 both have to turn left off Eighth onto Columbia. Do you see where the C4 stop is? It’s metres from the intersection. The bus has to cut clear across the right-hand turn lane to wedge itself into the left-hand turn lane. The C3 is marginally better, given it is further from the intersection.

This is incredibly stupid design and is easily fixed by swapping the stops for the C4 and the C8. The C8 turns right off Eighth onto Columbia, so it doesn’t have to cut across the right-hand turn lane to continue on its route. The C4 can turn right off Carnarvon onto Eighth, then easily get into the left-turn lane to continue on its route up Columbia.

I have other issues with Eighth (turn the taxi bay in front of the Old Spaghetti Factory into a passenger drop-off zone, move the taxi bay up around the corner to Carnarvon) but those are the major ones.

So. Four changes to make Eighth Street between Carnarvon Street and Columbia Avenue a little better for pedestrians, traffic, and transit:

  1. Convert right-hand lane on Eighth, downhill before Carnarvon, to right-turn-only.
  2. Reinstate crosswalk across Eighth, adding pedestrian-controlled warning lights.
  3. Swap the C3 and C9 bus stops.
  4. Swap the C4 and C8 bus stops.

Get it done, New Westminster.

canspice.org’s 2014 Year in Review

2014 was a pretty slow one on the good old blog, with only 22 posts written. Heck, the first one in 2014 didn’t come until September 17th!

Nonetheless, I did actually get some people actually visiting the site, with 7663 pageviews in total over 2014. That’s actually up over 2013 by 2.69%, astonishingly.

The most popular 2014 post, by pageviews, was my flowchart on how to get elected in New Westminster in 2014. Second was Jonathan X. Cote’s answers to my questions, and third was the actual questions.

I’m hoping to boost all of these numbers in 2015 with more frequent posting. See, by writing my first post on January 2 I’ve already doing better than last year!

I’m also hoping to boost engagement by turning on comments here. I didn’t like Disqus that much, and that was the default commenting system available to me. Recently I’ve discovered Muut and have enabled it here. This is the first post that uses it, so please do let me know if it’s any good!

As always, I can be reached on the Twitter at @CanSpice for shorter and quicker discourse.

Have a great 2015, everybody!

The Cost of Congestion

Vancouver Sun columnist Barbara Yaffe had a corker of an opinion piece about the upcoming transportation referendum. In it she trots out the “cost” to taxpayers:

…a PST hike — estimated to cost each household from $50-$258 annually…

I’ve tried to find some numbers that back this up, and all I’ve seen is this press release from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation that states:

The TransLink mayors’ $250 million sales tax hike, spread across the Lower Mainland’s nearly 1 million households, means the average household will face an annual tax increase of about $258.

Keep in mind that nearly 9 million people visit Vancouver each year, and they’ll also be contributing to the $250 million raised, so it’s not entirely on the residents of Vancouver to shoulder the burden.

Keep in mind basic math, as well. If I’m paying an extra 0.5% tax, and the total extra tax I’ve paid comes out to $250, that means I’ve spent $50,000 per year on taxable items. The median household income in Vancouver in 2012 was $71,140, which gives a take-home income of $55,178. This means for a median income family with two children, they would have to spend only $5,178 on non-taxable things to have their PST tax burden increased by $250. Rent isn’t taxable. Mortgages aren’t taxable. Food isn’t taxable (well, most food isn’t). Is the CTF’s $258 number sensible? No.

Edit: I just realized that I screwed up the math in the above paragraph. Yes, if you spend $50,000 on taxable items you’ll pay an extra $250 in PST, if the 0.5% PST increase goes through. What I neglected is that if you spend $50,000 on taxable items you have to pay the base 7% PST, which comes out to $3500. If you’re unlucky enough to need to pay the 5% GST on all of those items, you need to pay $2500 in GST. That means that to get the CTF’s increased PST burden of $250, you’ve already paid $6000 in taxes on $50,000 of goods and services. So of your $55,178 take-home pay you’ve already spent $56,000 of that, and you haven’t even paid your housing or food costs yet. The CTF’s $250 number is an even larger steaming pile of bullshit than it was before! Math! It works!

The lower bound on Barbara Yaffe’s tax increase is $50, which sounds a little more reasonable. Now, let’s suppose that the transportation referendum gets voted down, and Translink receives no additional funding from what it already has. Vancouver’s population will continue to increase, and with increased population comes increased traffic.

The average Vancouver driver’s commute in 2010 was 25 minutes. Let’s SWAG an increase in this by five minutes. Let’s also assume that the distance travelled doesn’t increase, which means that the additional time will be spent either idling or driving at a crawl. Five minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s ten minutes a day, fifty minutes a week, or 2400 minutes per year (assuming BC, where we have 11 public holidays and 10 vacation days).

When cars idle they burn about 0.1-0.3 gallons per hour. Let’s take the midpoint of that, 0.2 gallons per hour, or 0.75 litres per hour. At 40 hours spent idling (or at a crawl) that’s 30 extra litres of gas burned thanks to congestion.

Gas prices are currently very low, averaging just over a dollar per litre in Vancouver. That means at our currently-low gas prices, the increase in congestion would cost you an extra $30 a year.

But gas prices aren’t going to stay this low forever. They’ll go up. If you take the gas prices between July and November 2014 you’ll get an average of $1.384/L, so burning an extra 30 litres of gas would cost you an extra $41.50.

Given the choice between paying $50 a year for all kinds of improvements to Metro Vancouver’s transportation system or paying an extra $41.50 a year to sit in traffic for an extra 40 hours per year, which would you choose?

If you’re like Barbara Yaffe and can’t see past your wallet, you’ll vote no. If you want to sit in traffic more while saving an entire $8.50 a year, you’ll vote no.

Me? I’m going to vote yes to improving Metro Vancouver’s transportation system.

The Conflict Over Coquitlam

In the 2014 December 13 Vancouver Sun, columnist Pete McMartin wrote this correction:

My apologies to Mayor Greg Moore for incorrectly identifying him in Friday’s column as mayor of Coquitlam. He is not. He is mayor of Port Coquitlam, which I am assured are two completely different communities. Mayor Moore informed me by email, however, that he will be invading Coquitlam and should be incorporating it into Port Coquitlam by spring.

Finally, a Metro politician in favour of amalgamation.


“…he will be invading Coquitlam”?

Slow down there, chief. Invading Coquitlam is New Westminster’s game. Don’t forget what Jonathan Cote had to say:

I have long believed that New Westminster would benefit from an expanded land base. The twinning of the Bailey Bridge should help facilitate the Royal City’s long desire to have an IKEA.

Now, in the spirit of the season it’s not nice to be greedy and claim every part of Coquitlam for either Port Coquitlam or New Westminster. After all, Coquitlam is pretty big:

Look at all that space to share! It would be crazy to think that either New Westminster or Port Coquitlam could adequatly take over every part of Coquitlam, particularly all that land in the north. That’s why our cities need to work together to carve up Coquitlam like a Christmas turkey.

And why not get Port Moody in on the action too? They could use an expanded landbase too, right?

New Westminster’s targets are already clear:

Uptown, Maillardville, Downtown, Sapperton, Moody Park, Queensbourough, Burquitlam, Brow of the Hill, Fraser Mills, Victory Heights, Queens Park, Glenbrooke, Connaught Heights, West End, Quayside.)

I’ve bolded the neighbourhoods of Coquitlam that are to become New Westminster. I think Mr. Cote would agree that that’s enough for The Royal City, especially since that means we still get our IKEA.

Colony Farm Regional Park shouldn’t be split between two cities, so it’ll come completely within Port Coquitlam’s new boundaries.

And I think Port Coquitlam deserves a curling club. All proper cities in Canada have curling clubs, and both New Westminster and Port Moody already have one. Conveniently, Coquitlam has one based out of the Poirier Community Centre, so we’ll give that to Port Coquitlam.

And we’ll just bump up Port Moody’s borders a bit so they’re not so snug around the western end of Burrard Inlet.

That said, here are the new boundaries:

I think we can get this done by spring, don’t you?