A Modest Proposal for Queens Park

The Queens Park neighbourhood in New Westminster is full of old houses and apartment buildings. Some people want to tell their neighbours that they can’t tear down these old houses so the city is debating turning Queens Park into a Heritage Conservation Area. An owner of a house built before 1941 would have to go to council to make changes to it, basically — obviously there are other subtleties to this but that’s the gist.

Proponents say that the character of the houses and neighbourhood needs to be preserved. That’s fine. Because obviously the shape of the house dictates the character of a neighbourhood and the people living there have nothing to do with character.

Never mind that zoning bylaws were started because of racism and classism. Never mind that Queens Park has the lowest proportion of immigrants living in it. Never mind that houses in Queens Park sell for much much more than houses in any other neighbourhood in New West.

But the paint and wood and windows need to be preserved. So let’s preserve them. In fact, the HCA doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.

Let’s preserve every house in Queens Park. Let’s turn Queens Park into an unchanging museum of housing styles ranging from the 1890s to today. Let’s preserve all of the (English, white, rich) heritage that exists in Queens Park.

And let’s put up a fence around Queens Park, with giant signs that read “HEREIN LIES QUEENS PARK, A TRIBUTE TO THE SHATTERED HOPES AND DREAMS OF YOUNG NEW WESTMINSTERITES WHO WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO AFFORD A SINGLE FAMILY HOUSE” and “HEREIN LIES QUEENS PARK, A TRIBUTE TO OLD PAINT AND WOOD” and “HEREIN LIES QUEENS PARK, WHERE NIMBYS SAY PRESERVING OLD HOUSES IS AFFORDABLE FOR YOUNG FAMILIES”.

Honest to god there was a letter in The New West Record whose last two sentences were “In other words, property values are enhanced, fluctuations in house prices are reduced, and there is a greater sense of community ownership and involvement. I believe Queen’s Park [sic] will become the ‘heritage mecca’ for Greater Vancouver and will continue to attract young families as a great place to live.”

So yes, let’s put that on the signs too, as a fine example of the cognitive dissonance that comes from believing that somehow young people are going to be able to afford to buy a two million dollar house in Queens Park whose “property values are enhanced”.

And I apologize to those who thought from the title that this proposal was going to involve raising babies for food. God knows with the way zoning bylaws work you can’t raise any animals for food in New West, so how would you think we’d be able to raise babies for food here?

Addendum: Stephen Crosby pointed out that I didn’t go nearly far enough. No vehicles newer than 1941 should be allowed. Horse-drawn carriages, totally allowed (but not as high tech as the Amish make them). Men must wear hats, and ladies must wear gloves. If you’re a white woman living in a house built before 1918 you can’t vote. If you’re Asian or Indigenous, obviously you won’t be allowed to vote. Because 1941 is heritage and heritage is great and let’s all continue to believe we’re living there!

New Westminster 2017 Provincial election prediction scenarios

In the 2013 BC Provincial Election Andrew Weaver had a historic first BC Green victory in the Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding. This time around, the Greens are looking to expand upon their single seat with an additional one or two on Vancouver Island.

The dark horse riding for the Greens is our very own New Westminster, with Jonina Campbell running. Everything I’ve seen points to New West going NDP, and for good reason: in every election but one since 1952 the New Westminster riding has voted in either a CCF or an NDP MLA. But one candidate calls the election a crapshoot, and another says election night will be a nail-biter. Why?

Jonina Campbell. She’s a well-respected school board trustee, and sat as chair when the Provincial government finally decided to build a new high school. She wore some of that success (and Judy Darcy, the NDP candidate and MLA, shares some of that success as well) along with other school board successes: less infighting on the board, balancing the budget, and a series of progressive changes to district policies.

But is a BC Green victory in New Westminster realistic?

I took a look at some of the numbers and came up with some scenarios.

Baseline

When Andrew Weaver won in 2013 he gained votes from both the Liberals and the NDP in equal proportions. In 2009 Oak Bay-Gordon Head was won by the Liberals by a mere 561 votes, 11877 to 11316. The Greens took 2230 votes.

In 2013 the Greens took 10722 votes, the NDP came in second with 7767, and the Liberals came in third with 7536. All things being equal, this means that 3780 votes went from the NDP to the Greens and 4110 went from the Liberals to the Greens. Both parties lost approximately 33% of their votes to the Greens (33.4% for the NDP, 34.6% for the Liberals).

Turnout was up 2.7% in the riding.

In 2013 in New Westminster the NDP got 13170 votes, Liberals got 8997, the Greens got 2252, and other candidates received a total of 2546. We’re not going to look at the other candidates in this analysis.

Scenario 1: Oak Bay-Gordon Head in New Westminster

This scenario is pretty far-fetched. We’re going to take the same proportions of votes that went Liberal to Green and NDP to Green that we saw in Oak Bay-Gordon Head and assume that those proportions will happen in New Westminster. This means the NDP loses 33.4% of their 2013 votes to the Greens, and the Liberal loses 34.6% to the Greens.

Under this scenario, with no increase in turnout, the Greens win New Westminster with 9764 votes. NDP is in second with 8771, and the Liberals in third with 5884.

Scenario 1B: More voters, and they break Green

Of course, a close race means more interest in an election, and that can drive voter turnout. Let’s suppose the number of voters who actually cast a ballot in New Westminster goes up by 5% (note that this is actually different than “turnout increases by 5%” because of math). Let’s also suppose that they break Green – 50% of these new voters vote Green, 35% vote NDP, and 15% vote Liberal. Obviously under this scenario the Greens still win, but by a slightly larger margin: 10008 to 8925 to 5928.

Scenario 2: Split the Left

This scenario is also very far-fetched for New Westminster. We’ll assume that there’s a fixed pool of “left” voters made up of everybody who voted either NDP or Green in the last election and this year they actually legitimately exactly split the left. For this to happen 41.45% of the previous NDP voters would go Green, all of the Liberal voters vote Liberal again, and the Liberals would win New West by 1286 votes with the NDP and Green tied at 7711 votes. For either of the “left” parties to win, the number of new voters would have to go up 17% and they would all have to go to one of either the NDP or Green.

There’s no way this is going to happen.

Scenario 3: Liberals flee, NDP not so much

Let’s get into some more realistic scenarios. In New Westminster politically there’s really three groups: NDPers, regular people, and people who really don’t like the New Westminster and District Labour Council (aka THE MACHINE). The people in the latter category are largely Liberal supporters, but given their love for the Liberals is outweighed by their hatred for THE MACHINE, they could easily move to a candidate who stands a legitimate chance of coming close to defeating the NDP in New West. This year they have that candidate.

One could make a parallel here to the recent school trustee by-election that went to Mary Lalji if one were so inclined.

We could probably lump in a fourth group of people: NDP voters who aren’t really tied to the NDP but voted for them as an anti-Liberal vote.

So with that in mind, let’s throw some numbers down. Let’s say the Liberals lose 35% of their voters to the Greens. Let’s say the NDP’s a little firmer, with 15% of their voters going Green. Under this scenario, the NDP win New Westminster with 11195 votes, Greens in second with 7376, and Liberals in third with 5848.

Or maybe even more Liberals break Green? 50% means the Greens are still in second, but with 8726 votes. 75% gives them 10975 votes. You need to get over 78% of the Liberal voters moving to the Greens before they win in New Westminster with 11245 votes.

Scenario 3B: More new voters, and they break Green

Let’s take scenario 3 with the 35% Liberals and 15% NDP going Green, but let’s also bump up the voters by 10%, with 60% of them going to the Greens, 30% to the NDP, and 10% to the Liberals. Under this scenario the NDP still win New Westminster: 11530 to 7819 to 5906.

Scenario 4: More NDP go Green, even more Liberals go Green

Personally I think Scenario 3 is the most likely, but here’s another interesting possible outcome: 25% of NDP voters and 50% of Liberal voters go Green. I don’t think either proportion is correct, but it’s still within the realm of possibilities. Under this scenario, the Greens win New Westminster with 10043 votes, the NDP in second with 9878 votes, and the Liberals in third with 4499 votes.

Now that would be a nail-biter!

Scenario 5: You tell me!

Maybe you don’t agree with my scenarios. Great! Leave me a comment below or shoot me a comment on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll run the numbers.

Scenario 6: You don’t vote

In this scenario you are bad and you should feel bad.

GO VOTE!

What now for the Pattullo Bridge?

The Pattullo Bridge needs replacing. Built 80 years ago but designed to last 50 years, it desperately needs replacing. River scour is causing foundation issues. The reinforcing steel is corroding. The concrete is degrading. The lanes are narrow and dangerous. It needs to go.

TransLink has a plan for replacing it, with a new bridge planned to open in 2023. In 2014 New Westminster city council did a road tour around to other councils in Metro Vancouver to push for a four-lane tolled bridge — at the time Surrey wanted a six-lane bridge. Surrey agreed that a four-lane bridge would do, as long as it could be easily expanded to six lanes should vehicular traffic volumes dictate it.

In 2016 Surrey, New Westminster, and TransLink agreed that the new Pattullo would be tolled. This is important, as the toll would help to shape traffic patterns (along with the tolls on the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges, and on the future Massey Tunnel replacement bridge) and, more importantly, pay off roughly half of the cost of building the bridge.

And then a couple of days ago the BC Liberals said they’d cap bridge tolls at $500 per year. The BC NDP one-upped them, saying they would completely eliminate tolls.

So what does this mean for the Pattullo Bridge replacement? All of a sudden TransLink has lost about $500 million in toll revenue that they were planning on using to pay off their portion of the construction of the Pattullo Bridge replacement. Where does that money come from? The bridge needs to be replaced, that can’t be put off. But an organization with an operations budget of around $1.6 billion can’t magically pull $500 million out of a hat. Do they have to cut operational funding, which means cuts in service? Do they cut other capital projects they were planning, like the Surrey LRT or the Broadway SkyTrain line? Do they raise fares?

All of a sudden the two largest political parties in BC have thrown this planning into disarray. They’ve shown that not only are they willing to ignore the Mayors Council and TransLink, who have worked hard over the past five years to come up with plans to improve transportation in Metro Vancouver despite a hostile provincial government, they’re also willing to ignore decades of studies in transportation planning that show that congestion charges or mobility pricing, when instituted in conjunction with increases in public transit funding and availability, are the best way to fight congestion. Instead they’ve both gone with populist policies that will only serve to get them elected, and will set the region backwards five to ten years.

The BC Liberals and the BC NDP need to tell New Westminster and Surrey how the new Pattullo Bridge will be paid for, and they need to tell us before we all vote on May 9.

ACTBiPed Meeting Report for March 8, 2017

Another month, another ACTBiPed meeting. At March 8’s meeting we got to talk about pedestrians and accessibility, bus shelters, cycling, and a neighbourhood transportation plan. Let’s go!

First up was a report from a city planner about a pedestrian and cycling overpass at Sixth Street over Front Street and the train tracks to connect with Pier Park. This doesn’t seem to be a critical piece of infrastructure to put in right now, but the construction at 660 Quayside Drive is going to close the entrance to Pier Park along the waterfront, leaving the only access at the 4th Street elevator and stairs. City staff were asking for comments from ACTBiPed on whether this overpass should include an elevator or be an accessible ramp. Overwhelmingly the response was an accessible ramp. I think (and with good reason) people in New Westminster are hesitant to recommend outdoor elevators, and an accessible ramp means people with mobility issues (or cyclists) can get to and from Pier Park at any time. Look for this overpass to be in place hopefully before construction at 660 Quayside starts in Spring 2018.

Next came a report and update on New Westminster’s Bus Shelter program. New West has a goal to have shelters at 75% of feasible bus stop locations by 2020. A bus stop is considered “feasible” if there’s enough room — a shelter needs a 1.5m x 4.5m concrete pad, and that has to be a minimum of 1.3m from the curb. To hit the target, New West needs to have an additional 35 shelters put in place. Now, Pattison Outdoor Advertising has a contract with the city to install, operate, maintain, and repair bus shelters with advertising, but they want to put shelters in locations that are feasible for them — high traffic areas. (Side note: the city gets back a percentage of the ad revenue, about $100/month/shelter!) The city has compiled a list of feasible high priority locations based on ridership numbers and demographics, and of this list 7 are also on Pattison’s “good advertising potential” list. I don’t know where those are, but they’ll be going in in 2017. Additionally, Ewen Avenue is going to get a “public art inspired” bus shelter. If you’re into designing bus shelters, check out the call for artists. Another non-ad shelter is going to go in somewhere on Quayside Drive. (Mad props to Max Leung, a co-op student, who crunched all the numbers that went into the report and answered the questions we threw at him!)

If you have suggestions on where bus shelters might be needed, please do let the city know! Also, if you have any suggestions on providing shelter at the Police Station stop on Sixth Street, let the city know as well!

After the bus shelter report came a report about the ‘listen and learn’ workshop held in Sapperton as one of the initial stages for the development of the Sapperton Transportation Plan.  Given the report was largely based on input from the community, there were some… interesting ideas that won’t actually see the light of day (like the Stormont Connector). The report gave good insight into what Sapperton residents see as important in their neighbourhood. From a cycling point-of-view, the gap in the Central Valley Greenway between Cumberland and Brunette was noted as a huge deficiency, and there’s also some talk towards making Keary Street the official bike route between Columbia and Richmond instead of Sherbrooke Street.

Days are still early, so if you have any interest in transportation in Sapperton (and most importantly, pedestrian transportation) definitely follow the city’s news. The next workshop is scheduled for April 8, 2017.

We then got an update on the public consultation for the Rotary Crosstown Greenway improvements. About a dozen people showed up, and the response was largely positive. Some people thought that the plans don’t go far enough and the bike lanes should be properly separated with curbs! Look for paint to go down on the street sometime this summer. It’ll be New Westminster’s first AAA (all ages and abilities) walking and cycling path!

And to finish things off, Mary Wilson announced the Walk New West Challenge that’s happening from April 3 to May 28. Form a team, register, and discover just how walkable New Westminster is!

ACTBiPed Meeting Report for February 15, 2017

I’m a member of New Westminster’s Advisory Committee for Transit, Bicycles and Pedestrians (aka ACTBiPed), and we had our first meeting of the year on February 2017. Since they’re open to the public and only one member of the public routinely attends (the always awesome Mary Wilson), I’ve decided to post a little report after each meeting outlining the things that we do and learn in these meetings to help shed some light on the City’s efforts to make sustainable modes of transportation safer and more appealing.

Because last night was the first one of the year, we had to deal with the administrivia first: Oath of Office, don’t be a jerk, that sort of thing. Did you know that as a member of an advisory committee I’m not allowed to take bribes? Shocking, I know!

The first proper committee work we did was to receive and endorse the 2017 ACTBiPed Transportation Work Plan, which gives a summary of the things that the Transportation Section of the City is planning on bringing to the committee in 2017 for our consideration. Our work is largely guided by the City’s Master Transportation Plan, which has the following four targets to achieve before 2041:

  1. Increase sustainable transportation such that the proportion of trips by sustainable modes will be 40% by 2021, 50% by 2031, and 60% by 2041;
  2. No additional increase in regional through traffic;
  3. Reduce distance driving from 10km per person per day to 6.5km per person per day;
  4. Increase safety so that there will be no traffic-related fatalities or serious injuries most years.

Since we’re concerned with sustainable modes of transportation (transit, cycling, and walking) a lot of what the city is planning to hit targets 1, 3 and 4 fall under ACTBiPed’s remit. In 2017, some of the areas they’re planning on bringing to us include:

We endorsed this work plan, and I’m looking forward to seeing more details on a number of these items.

We then received a report from Engineering Services about the 2017 Pedestrian Crossing Improvement Program. The first thing to note about this is that the budget of $250,000 for this program has not yet been approved by council, so it’s subject to change.

Engineering Services has identified 9 locations in the city that would benefit from some sort of improvements to make crossing the street safer for pedestrians. The procedure to identify these locations is a little complicated, involving vehicle traffic counts, pedestrian traffic counts, vehicle speeds, distance from another control device, number of collisions, and the demographics of pedestrians in the area (is it on a Safe Route to School, are there a significant number of vulnerable pedestrians such as seniors or people with disabilities, and so on). They also use these statistics to determine what kind of improvements are warranted — it makes no sense to put a pedestrian activated traffic signal on a quiet street with very few pedestrians.

Punching in all of the numbers and doing some analysis, Engineering Services came up with these proposed improvements:

There are another two that Engineering Services hopes to improve in 2018:

Judging from the discussion around the table, the last one is going to be a little controversial. It’s fairly close to the pedestrian crossing at Royal Avenue and Stewardson Way, and there isn’t a lot of pedestrian traffic at Royal and Eleventh. It has a lot of vehicle traffic, and that vehicle traffic is moving quickly (67.5km/h in a 50km/h zone). But importantly, of all the crossings analyzed this crossing had the second-highest number of collisions, and even worse, it had a pedestrian collision. Pedestrians surveyed say they do not feel safe at the Royal/Stewardson crossing, and this crossing would make pedestrians feel and be safer crossing Royal at Eleventh.

We endorsed the 2017 Pedestrian Crossing Improvement Program, and since that was the last item on the agenda, we wrapped up the meeting.