A proposal for New Westminster’s street parking

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.

Education Minister tours NWSS

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.”

Cote announces Quebec expansion plans

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.”

Wherein Brad rants about asteroid names

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?