Sunday, 3 November 2019

Broadway Subway - Everything We Know

The Broadway Subway Project is one of 3 current Vancouver infrastructure projects that I personally love watching unfold and I think will be great for the city.

For those that are unaware, the core idea of this project is to continue the Millennium Skytrain line from VCC-Clark station to Arbutus street (mostly under Broadway). The hope is that by tripling the capacity of current bus systems, and cutting the transit time by 2/3, more people will leave their cars at home and congestion at street level will lighten ahead of the growth of the city.

As usual, there are the ignorant armchair engineers and uninformed citizens that Translink and City Engineers must suffer.  I cannot imagine being recruited from the other side of the globe for my expertise successfully building similar things in bigger cities than here and listening to some of the complete bullshit as if for over a decade no accountants or data analysis by experts hadn't been focused on this one.

That said, despite the LRT idiots whose solution would meet like 1/10 of the key requirements of this project (but be cheaper, right!), there is a history that does invite some of that:

  • Under-built station lengths on the Canada Line (no one ever mentions the massive resistance citing no one would ever ride the Canada Line which is over capacity now..)
  • Skytrains plagued with outages over the years.  Since we have only 3 lines this can and has crippled the city (but doesn't that also suggest that if we build fast infrastructure,.. people will use it? To me that supports this project)
There is also a compelling case to be made for going further.. to UBC and a major campaign to make that happen. I'm a bit torn on that one.  Yes I'd like people out there to leave their cars West of Burrard but there is a very long and costly stretch between the University and Alma with zero business or population density where the people will never leave their SUVs. My feeling is the end should be Alma/Highbury (with a station at MacDonald too) in anticipation of the major, major development project there and existing business and population density already in place.  For the cost of the end part to UBC (a very fast road and almost stop-less now on 99 B-line) you can run one hell of a lot of last leg shuttle buses around the clock. 


COV and Translink have released many notices about the plans and timelines, and even setup a project office (right near my place!). However, like the Granville Bridge Improvement project the graphics and posts seems to submarine and disappear from time to time so I'm compiling my own collection of  "what is known" about the stations.

In this city, subway station placement will radically change neighbourhoods.  The city, of course, is trying to ensure that the cost of these stations is not wasted by allowing more densification along the line.  I'm going to share their drawings, but highlight something I don't think they are drawing much attention to: what will be redeveloped just to allow the temporary project work yards, let alone the stations themselves.

For example, near my closest station a major building is removed for the station, and several more go down almost a block away for a construction yard.  I'm not saying all development is bad but there is a 28 storey building being shoved in on the edge of my 3 storey neighbourhood... so my guess is the nice row of businesses being bulldozed between Hemlock and Granville is not just so they can store some sacks of concrete, but it will go from 1 storey buildings, to something that could alter the neighbourhood as much as the station itself.

First, here are the key links to read if you are interested in the "maps" of this project:

Let's go station by station and check out all of the pics together to paint a more fleshed out picture of what is going on along with the implications for the area. 
Red lines show the yards and an X indicates a building that will be lost.  My bad blue scratches indicate what part will actually be the station and not just new condos or businesses.
In many cases I'm guessing based on the info provided.

Great Northern Way

This station is where the train goes underground.  This should be great for servicing the growth here too, currently it is quite a walk from VCC.  Currently this is just an open area but the line (not the station), looks like it might require tearing down the Equinox gallery.

Mount Pleasant

I'm not really going to miss the tanning place across from Chutney Village but I am surprised that the new building up Main will go (but I think Noodle Box is crap and being this is a recent horrible building, no heritage lost).  The Tim Horton's is in an older building (an old bank?), but at least it is not the Lee building.






Broadway-City Hall

I don't know a ton about the process or machinery involved with boring, but this render shows the depth at which they will go (the station on the surface apparently remains the same but now you can go left at end of ramp).

What is interesting is how much space on the surface they are dedicating to the yard.  I think the City might own all of that land so I guess that makes sense but really a whole block is wiped clean.
The old 40s buildings don't surprise me, that block may actually improve for niceness for the average citizen but I'm surprised at the use of the parking lot off of 10th.
That lot is one the biggest concentration of the following things in our city:
  • EV plugins
  • Car2Go, Evo, Modo and some other weird share vehicles
  • Mobi bike share docks
To not have that removes of one of the major success factors for this hub: a means for people to come and leave the station without use of a personal car that needs a parking space.  I sure hope they have a plan B and long terms this space comes back (and more!)







Fairview-VGH

This station services the huge medical building concentration and the hospital itself.  My sincere hope is that the simplicity of taking a faster service with less stops encourages the huge worker population to take transit more (apparently already high).  More importantly, maybe be the truck driving out of towners (presumably family of patients?) that drum up business for VGH daily by trying to wipe out the cyclists on 10th,.. will find taking a subway here easier from wherever they are staying.
The current B-line already has a special stop here bucking the trend of only stopping on the arteries but this makes sense.
Unfortunately there are some unique looking buildings that will becomes casualties of the station and needed construction yard. There goes more sunlight...


South Granville

This station services "my" neighbourhood so I'm particularly curious about how it all fits together.



Originally Daily Hive said the station entrance was going to be closer to Hemlock where DeSerres Art store is now. This would have been slightly nicer for me, but I digress.  Instead, it looks as if the building that holds the Royal Bank currently is going to be replaced.
As it stands now the building will not be much taller than it is now but that seems likely to change given 2 blocks away a 28 storey building on higher land was proposed.  In fact, this entire block except the newer building on Hemlock and Broadway will be gone.  The building across the alley from RBC (and the alley itself) will become part of the new building (not shown correctly with my red lines), as will the entire middle of the block.  For a local this sucks.

Supposedly just for the work yard (and not the station structure itself) we lose a great store for cards and art supplies, and other businesses have already moved out including some of the more useful ones in a desert of useful businesses for non-rich people.  Our only bike store,.. gone. Soon to go (along with sunlight): Memphis Blues, Breakfast Table, decent Chinese and Thai.  Why oh why couldn't we kill 2 birds with one stone and wipe out MacDonald's, Joey's and the cheesiest furniture store on earth out (Jordan's) instead?  Clearly, the reason to use certain spaces for the construction yards is also accelerating certain development agendas in the process, and usually trouncing the businesses I care for and the structures with history (unfortunately).

Arbutus

The final station (currently) is Arbutus. This is the one I hear most complaints about for 2 reasons:

  1. Presumably because it inches further into quiet residential streets.
  2. Because it is the emotional focus of the end of the line where people feel UBC, MacDonald, or Alma should be the end.
The first one is not unwarranted. None is going to miss the Fido building which looked temporary the day it was built as a video rental store.. (though there are probably memories in the tree lot) but here will now be a bus loop in that same space.  I used to commute (by car) down Arbutus and that intersection can be hairy.  The thought of buses turning within 200m of the corner.. I'm not sure the subway will offset THAT many cars and given this is the hop off spot for the remaining journey to UBC... I imagine will very, very noisy and congested indeed.


To me, the work yard is the other frustrating part (but this one shorter lived).  For the duration of this project and another great project, the Arbutus Greenway, there will be a broken detour for pedestrians and cyclists.  Granted, there will be some killer new "character zones" added in the coming years, but it seems like bike paths always take the hit and these were recently built!





 Further questions

I'm really a big fan of this line despite losing some buildings I like and the fear it might be the beginning of the end for sunlight in winter along Broadway due to densification.

That said, I have at least one big question for the concept of ALL of these stations (especially City Hall, and Granville): why do we only have one entrance for each station? 

Congestion is not only cars,.. but also pedestrians crossing at intersections with cell phones and headphones and slowing the flow of traffic due to their complete ignorance of the road rules.  In NYC,.. you can get to each station from at least 4 different corners and walk underground.  City Hall and Granville stations should both have entrances that allow travel underground to the opposite corner.



Wednesday, 25 September 2019

The Granville Connector: "West+" all the way.

The City of Vancouver, after many years of alluding to it, have finally confirmed improvements to the Granville Street Bridge are most likely coming.  Specifically, some of the underused car lanes will be converted to make a safe crossing for pedestrians and cyclists.

I have been waiting for this for a very long time.  To me, this water crossing was the #1 glaring gap in the network of complete streets and I have been saying it for years.  To have a bridge so inhospitable to even walk across, and worse, deadly to ride,..ridiculous.  Add to that the fact that neither end of the bridge will ever be able to be anything but a bottleneck for all of those driving lanes... it was about time.

Some background first. When the display suite for now almost completed Vancouver House was erected, citizens heard the first noise about a park-like channel down the middle of the bridge being considered,.. but was it just a developer's pipe dream?  For years it was silent and even the CoV website had only a few of the artist's pictures reachable deep within their pages for this concept.  It seemed as if they had backed out. In 2017, however, when Westbank put on an event near Jack Poole plaza, the Vancouver House models resurfaced as part of a display and this time I had a camera.. sure enough, I had not just imagined it.  In January 2019 it resurfaced in earnest with City Council approving the start of consultations for the what is now called the Granville Connector.

I have a selfish stake in this project.  Years ago I calculated just how far people living in a number of dense residential areas need to go out of their way to cross False Creek and into the downtown core if they live between the Cambie and Burrard bridges.  The distances are not far in a car,... but what I now know from working for a transportation based service,.. for cyclists and pedestrians it is plenty far enough to influence people making a choice to drive or not.  I live in that area (near Granville and 13th) and for me, depending on the downtown destination,.. it can be up to a 4 km detour - that is why I care.  I drive, bus and walk that bridge weekly,.. but I want to bike it and I want many more people to consider not driving to work across it.

I feel it is our duty to get everyone where they need to go in the city with the minimum movement of single occupancy cars and though the Granville Street bridge is great for buses, it is like a firewall for anything else but cars despite being the most direct line for tens of thousands of Vancouverites to the core of our city.

I joined the CoV workshops offered by the city to solicit public suggestions and feedback. To be honest, I went with the agenda to ensure that some crazy requirement didn't derail the entire project,.. as far as I was concerned a utilitarian concrete barrier running up the bridge was all I cared about.

To my surprise, during those sessions most participants wanted far more for non-drivers and the drivers understood the capacity bonanza once it was explained to them.  The city has since provided their own map, like mine above, that demonstrates that  the other 2 crossings are not enough for people located in the middle if real change is the objective (that being commuter choices). They also have put forth 6 design options,.. all far exceeding my hopes.

Please provide your feedback and consider "West +"

Whether or not you support any of the proposed solutions,.. if the money is going to be spent, I would would hope everyone would want the maximum utility of that investment. In my opinion, that means getting the most people to convert to walking or cycling across that bridge, and to maximize the increase in making it a tourist draw.

What has been called the "West +" option is the one that is most likely to achieve that but to understand why, you need to know about 2 things:

  • self-propelled travel patterns where hills are involved
  • the gradients of the various parts of the bridge decks
I have the fortune to work for Vancouver's only bike share.  The majority of the effort for our redistribution crew is dealing with the preference of riders to ride bikes down hills, but not up them.  Ask any of my co-workers and this a daily reality.  Only West + utilizes the Fir Street off-ramp to the full potential.

Why does this matter? Imagine hiking North up the to the crest of the bridge only to drop all of that elevation to go back to the level of West 4th only to climb to Broadway to pick up transit (or whatever) there.  

All of the design options proposed include a safe way to cross the bridge for pedestrians, wheelchairs, and bikes, and all but 1 have a decent connection to the Arbutus Greenway.  However, only West + includes a wide enough passage along the Fir Street off-ramp which is the only part of the bridge that remains at an elevation somewhat level with Broadway.  For southbound traveling commuters starting south of Broadway (including the future Skytrain users),.. essentially a flat or downhill ride into the city core.  Northbound, no longer are you hoofing it from 4th to Broadway.. just take the more gradual gradient to the crest of the bridge, drop a bit and don't waste your effort doing it all again.

Don't believe me? Walk from the Yale downtown to the Royal Bank on Granville and Broadway... but stay on Granville.  People will ride that once and probably never do it again.  Put them on Fir.. they get unblocked sight lines, sunlight,... and realistic gradients for non-athletes to walk, roll and ride.

Some will balk at the cost (not the highest, but not the lowest of the 6 options). For whatever reason this option has an added (but IMO  opinion unneeded) widened sidewalk on the east side which I'm told increases the price-tag but there is an unlisted option to not include this... (I wonder if that is a tactic).  That would be the only way to improve on West +,.. lower the price and shrink the scope a bit.

Please do this survey (by this Friday) and make sure the city hears your voice.  It is pretty clear to me that if you took the city councilors for a walk or ride on all of these options (with no electric assist!) West + would be chosen hands down.

Walk it for yourself and remember we only get one shot at creating this unique space and making it as enticing as possible for commuters and tourists.

I know even reading this takes a ton of time and reading the CoV material more yet but spend the time, it is your city.  Help Vancouver see what New York now knows... (referring to the Highline)

Survey HERE.






Tuesday, 1 January 2019

My 2018 in Review

I enjoy the process of looking back at year's end and using those learnings (or gaps) as part of the process how to approach the next year.  For example here is my post form 2017.

It is both a time to remember "oh ya! we did that THIS year?", and also a means to inspire ourselves to do more of the things we like, and better, and not become complacent. It also, in some years like this one, is a reminder of how short life can be and a chance to honour the passing of important people or institutions.

What Laura and I listed as important to us in 2017 has not changed this year.
  • seeing enough family
  • seeing enough friends
  • keeping work in proper context
  • ensuring we see/try enough new things: travel destinations, local activities, restaurants
  • health

2018 Overview

If 2017 was the year of travel and seeing family, then 2018 is marked (for me), by a cultural work shift. I switched sectors and specializations to become the HR and Office Manager for the city of Vancouver's bikeshare (mid-Febuary).  Laura also started in a different role (still within govt.), that was more positive in mid-April and was located downtown.

We traveled much less in 2018 but the non-travel part of our lives seemed to be less of a source of drain on our energy and came with a variety of learnings in their own right, much like travel does for us usually.

This year was also marked by the loss of a key member of our family: my uncle Jim.

Travel

I'm just following the same heading order as last year so by no means should this section coming first signify relative impact on the year.

After a year like 2017,.. I actually had very little travel bug and was happy to be BC based.  That said, I was fortunate enough to know I had a job lined up over a month in advance so took a solo trip in January to Palm Springs and L.A. 

I truly enjoyed this trip and those destinations, completely countering my previous experiences there.  I was still doing my photo project and managed to get some of my favourite shots of all time.  I think knowing that I wasn't coming back to a job hunt or just having some sort of plan was part of it.

I also, went to visit my in-laws in Windsor (I've met them but never gone there)! This was the first time and there was snow on the ground so I feel like it was the full experience.  My mother-in-law and brother-in-law took us to Toledo while there to visit one of the more amazing art galleries I've seen in North America. It was great to see where Laura grew up. 

The core of the year was spent in BC (aside from single day or overnight trips to Washington to hike, 2 with Wendie and Pete to HWY 20).  Somehow, I managed to end up doing 2 Sooke centred trips: the East Sooke Coast trail with out friends Peter and Olivia and and a cycle trip I went on over a mountain and the Sooke Hills with cycle buddies Paul and Ulrike.

Unfortunately, our well advance planned Garibaldi trip was a bust as the new booking system makes you commit so far in advance that weather is an unknown making me question trying again.  We did however still get a few good hikes in but this was not one of the better hike seasons for us for volume.

Our last and I suppose biggest trip together in 2018 was Los Angeles in November. We felt it was a gap in our travel experience given ease of access. I feel we gave it the full treatment this time and didn't leave many stones unturned.  

Family

Windsor was a good start but unfortunately compared to a year where you are on the east coast and have months of free time, we just didn't quite feel great about the amount of time we spent with family in 2018.

My uncle Jim passed away in May and though this meant more time together, the reason was a hard one to take for all.  I really feel this was one of the things that marks this year for me.  He was an omnipresent person in my life despite us usually only seeing him a handful of times a year.  Like us, he lived in Metro Vancouver my entire life and in my own personal encyclopedia under the word "uncle" there would be a picture of him. He was the uncle I knew best, and knew first.  He was a highly principled man, and very caring.  The many stories I'd heard all of my life of him taking a stand for what is right were apparently only a fraction of what he really delivered in life on that front.  We should all take a page from his book and I know for a fact a part of him is not only in all of my cousins, but in me also.  I'm a better person for knowing him.  I feel very sad just typing this, and my thoughts go to my aunt Irene and how her life will change and how we need to make sure we see her more.

On the flipside, Laura's cousins Johnny and his wife Danielle welcomed a cute baby girl to the world! I do feel really lucky that Laura also has relatives here in Vancouver (cousin Tracie's hospitality is always fun, relaxed and so well incorporated into our family experience in this city - may her house never sell!)

My dad and his wife Patti managed to get in their travel this year but also struggle on and off with health. They get around despite it but I'm reminded of how I need to do better at ensuring I spend time with all of my extended family in 2019.  Too busy and too tired is not an excuse.

Friends

Canada day eh?
I'm not sure how to rate 2018.  We have realized that we are sort of introverts and if we aren't conscious about getting out, we get isolated and it may cost us depth in friendships with others.  This is not our intention, we love traveling, laughing, and eating with friends.  Early in the year we had a few people over to build a puzzle and some friends hosted a games night (twice).  The amount of happiness these simple events give us make us feel sort of negligent... I mean, why don't we do it more?
We had some furniture refinished this year that should allow us to host at home better so let this be a declaration of that intention!
Outdoor trips remain one of our favourite ways to connect because they lack city distractions and every step is a new shared experience.  We had some good ones with Andy and Maria, my sister and brother in law, and Peter and Olivia plus many more.  As always, we plan quite a few of these as the anchor to any satisfying year plan.

Health

No big diets were conducted this year or gym plans but for the most part a relatively healthy run for 2018.  Sure I have a bum shoulder and got the flu but for the most part I'm just a bit "older" feeling.

Why? I think cycling to work 5 days a week possibly helps quite a bit.  I definitely didn't lose the mythical 16-20 lbs people do when they start to commute by bike daily, nor was I in the best shape of the last 5 years but I was never in bad shape.  By cycling daily, as opposed to a pattern of big hikes or bike rides less frequently, I seem to have more of a base at all times and be ready to go. It has cemented my belief that I want to always have this as part of my working life. I wrote about that journey HERE <link pending>.

Work

The biggest game changer for sure this year.

I never felt particularly connected with the objectives of the places I have worked historically and maybe only moderately connected to the culture.  By joining the team the runs Vancouver's bikeshare, my hobbies and work life sort of merged.  Though I have taken a bit of a right turn in my career path and my earnings (I'm no longer a manager of people, projects, or IT related services), I have learned alot about myself by actually seeking out where I want to work and getting it. 

Historically I've been the odd person out with an interest in the outdoors or even having non-work interests at all! The people I now work with seem a bit more like the folks that otherwise might be a part of the kind of communities I've only circulated in on my free time (like Wanderung or the cycling community as a whole).  The people I work with now tend to gravitate towards important ideas as much as they do paycheques.  I think as a group we've made the city  a better place to live.

It isn't perfect, elsewhere I've felt I typically can contribute way more and apply my experience more effectively, but I'm happier here, and interested in the outcomes (it may be a function of my HR role or just the people dynamics and leadership in general).  I do feel I might live longer working in a place like this because I no longer dread going to work.  On many subtle levels I think I know more what I want to be doing during that 1/3 of my life regardless of where I am and enjoy that there is less unneeded stress here.  As a happier person I oddly feel less like spending money... except on things that matter (like experiences).

I embarked on zero extra "special projects" this year (so I've removed that section) which I think is symbolic. I think it may be a sign of more balance in my life as work initiatives seems a bit more like what I would have volunteered for in the past. The one possible exception this year was that I got really into the municipal election. Though not super pleased with the outcome, it could have been worse and I like to think that the hundreds of people that seemed to find my blog maybe helped?! (how they found this I do not know). I enjoyed being more aware of what is going on locally and aim to keep that up.

2019 Goals summarized:

Looking back has helped me think about how to approach this year differently.
  • see more extended family - make this a priority
  • find a way to get better pictures of Laura and I together - we suck at this
  • continue to spend less on 'stuff', but when I spend, maximize the utility or experience
  • see more friends with no specific activity at the core,.. just have people over
  • continue the trend towards going predominantly car-less and environment conscious
  • continue to find the things in my work life that satisfy me and I don't feel the need to compartmentalize into the smallest box possible
  • see where I can help the place I work on more levels, dig deeper into my experience and develop some new skills too
  • weave better mental and physical health into daily routine - like biking for groceries

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Election Results

Well, I wish it were over but it seems NPA leader Ken Sim will contest the result due to a narrow margin.

So how did it go?

Yes, Vancouver 1st, and the Coalition evaporated, thank god, so the remaining boogy-man for me is NPA.  They don't represent my interests typically, and the secured half of the council and some of the specific councilors are not the co-operative ones.. I truly hope Ken Sim (though I like him as a person) does not succeed in his recount attempts.

As I go through this process I find I'm less concerned with my bias against NPA on the school and parks board, but somewhat concerned about the council.

Mayor: 

Kennedy Stewart was my #2 choice and I am disappointed Shauna Sylvester didn't win, and that she can't just be a councilor as a consolation.  I think we needed her.  If a recount means Sim wins things will be very, very, different,.. not only would NPA have 1/2 the council, the tie breaker vote too.  I will feel partially responsible because I do think the vote was split and I convinced several people I know to go with Sylvester.

A big thanks to Hector Bremner for splitting the right! (scary that Young beat him though..).  The Nazi beat rollergirl...also scary (and there are people below both of them?!)

Councillors:

Scary shit.  Aside form the 5 NPA folks, all of the other 5 were part of my slate.

Let's first look at my slate that didn't make it: 

Tanya Paz - Vision curse for sure, but also maybe her personality.  She 100% should be my top person given her stance on sustainable and logical transportation but I never felt moved by her as much as the data she presented and my alignment with it.

Heather Deal - I liked her for all the good things Vision did. With that party snuffed I think some momentum in key areas will be lost. I'm disappointed.

Blythe, Yan, O'keefe - These people deserved a shot. All of them were champions for average citizens (even more on the marginalized, mid-low income of us), imagine them in stead of 3 of these NPAs.

Elected, but I wish wasn't and not by my vote!:

Because they are so close to a majority, I just wish I knew how much guidance NPA council members get from NPA HQ (if there is such a thing), or if the good ones will just be free to vote with their hearts.  From their history, the term "Non-Partisan" is not accurate, but there weren't enough of them to really say for sure how that would work on a larger scale.  We do know that none of the NPAs responded to HUB's cycle infrastructure questions (At least Wei Young is honest), so I can't help but think that they were ordered not to do so and it shows they don't have the guts to stand behind what they think, or contradict their party if it means votes.

Melissa De Genova - like a bad rash, she just won't go away. Anti-bike lane, anti-cooperation, anti- reason.  Trump with an even faker smile. I think I've said enough about her.

Colleen Hardwick - it is not fair to judge someone on their inability to smile like us mammals, but there, I did it (she should work on that, it is hard to trust her!).  In all seriousness, I appreciate her roots in Vancouver and backing of heritage initiatives.  What little I know makes me a bit worried she may be more of an accountant and less city planner but I did see her try to revive talk about the LRT style transit option on North side of False Creek which I support.  I'm leaning towards thinking she is only neutral level on the NPA "bad stuff" .

Lisa Dominato - I feel she is one of the good eggs that lost her way and joined the wrong party.  If not for her NPA ties, I'd have considered voting for her from what little I know.

Rebecca Bligh - In many ways her bio and experience is less righty than I might think but I feel her work experience in general do not compare to the resumes of many that ran so wonder if she would have won as an independent.  She seems pleasant enough but when I see a candidate with a very thin platform AND resume.. I think they are just pale comparisons to the Jean Swansons etc. of the world.

Sarah Kirby-Yung - My first exposure to her was a post of a purposely unflattering picture of Shauna Sylvester. This is the stuff I feel is more prevalent on the right than left (of course I do this stuff,.. but I'm not running..). Nothing on paper is a red flag but I have never had a good vibe about her when seeing her speak.  Her resume and experience with tourism are assets though.

I aim to keep an open mind and hope these people are reasonable despite what I cannot understand,.. why they can associate with some of the people in their party and even their history.

Park Board:

5 of the 7 elected here were part of my slate.  Clearly noone took Mathew Kagis of the Work Less Party seriously (I wondered if his association with that party might burn him).  Similarly, the Vision brand probably hurt Cameron Zubko.

The 2 other seats went to NPA people and this was one area where I felt NPA wasn't so plainly right-wing but with these specific candidates was that the case?  Of note, the last board had 3 NPA people so it seems they may have lost ground here.

Tricia Barker - I like what I see about her generally.  She is focused on being a voice for seniors and we need that, plus she has a non-psychopath smile unlike some of the other people in her party. In her social media she did post a sunset picture with a Mobi bikeshare bike in the background so hopefully that means something. Like all NPA candidates, she refused to even reply to the questions posed by the cycling coalition (which concerns me).  Otherwise, no red flags.

John Coupar - This guy has experience on the board which I like.  Parks commission minutes show that he seems to play nice with others and his #1 area of focus in his campaign was "horticultural excellence". Coupar was the one that drove a revitalization initiative for the Bloedel Conservatory and his social media feed indicates a number of things he supports that I also feel strongly about: public pools, historic buildings, honouring the original names of Vancouver places, and even ensuring continuity of nostalgic institutions like the Kits showboat.  The only knocks against him I can find are no stance on bikes, and the party he joined.

School Board:

First thought: I'm disappointed Carrie Bercic didn't get in.  4 of the 7 people I picked (I had 2 undecided) got in and from a party perspective I probably cannot complain about most of the rest... but I could be happier with the individuals from those parties.  One other comment, at least the school board doesn't look like a random sampling of Scandanvian citizens,.. (like the all white council!)

Green - 3
NPA - 3
COPE - 1
Vision - 1
OneCity - 1

My few comments here.

Allan Wong - Despite his past importance here, squeaked in by a super slim margin (and I"m glad)/ Time to go independent Allan, your low score here can only be explained by the your toxic party brand.  Erin Arnold was not so lucky which is too bad.

The Greens - I'm glad Gonzalez got in, but I feel there are stronger candidates than Chan-Pedley in several parties.  Clearly the voters really like Janet Fraser,..wow.

Jennifer Reddy - I voted a OneCity slate because they oppose private schools getting public money (amongst other things). She is great, but I wish her teammates had made it.

Barb Parrott - I just discovered now that she is undegoing cancer treatment, I wish her the best of luck.  This woman is the Jean Swanson of the school board regarding poverty and for that I'm glad she is there to champion that.  Her biography shows what a powerhouse she is in that arena.  I remember now why it was so important to vote for her.

The NPAs - 1/3 of the school board (but thankfully no Coalition folks n the further right), and none of these people were supported by any teacher based slate that I saw. I don't know, but when I need a knee replaced, I talk to a surgeon,.. for me same goes for teachers...they work with kids and aren't some parent with too much time on their hands.  That said,.. these are not those people and I kind of wonder if they might balance out the fiscal responsibility of the board.  All of them prioritize inclusion (first nations and SOGI for example), and none of them in their public platform, push the "more options" mantra which means all of us funding private schools for the already rich. Lets look at the individuals.

  • Oliver Hansen - Lawyer, businessman, parent. Social media shows he really is about art and inclusion.. (just pick a better party buddy)
  • Carmen Cho - nothing to wrote home about, and no social media presence at all,.. she's a ghost. I struggle understanding how she got in except maybe her party brand and the other 2 NPA non-elected just seemed less to people's liking. On paper, there were way better choices than her outside of NPA in any direction. 
  • Fraser Ballantyne - Was the chair of the board and has many years in this sector,.. many.  I have a nagging memory of hearing something negative about this guy but I can't find any red flags.  His wife was a music teacher which wins him points for me.

We'll see, if they all play nice, this could be a really nicely mixed board.  I actually am starting to think I like the NPA is this area for their frequent mentions of funding allocation and governance.









Sunday, 14 October 2018

Election


Overview:

This year, and maybe because you can't help but become more politically aware in a time when the American empire seems to be crumbling,.. we decided to do more to educate ourselves about the candidates in this year's municipal election.
I want to share it in case you also are confused and a summary gives you more hints than wading through hundreds of articles and city council meetings.  Know this, I am no expert, and I cherry pick what I like.  In the past I tended to vote along party lines and focused on a few issues that are important to me but this year I've done more research and generally have more exposure to city workings through my job and my network than ever before.

Who am I politically? Before you bother to put any weight into my words, you should know where I stand generally (or what areas I tend to be more up on).. I've found that people I seem to get along with often surprise me with their political leaning,.. you might feel the same about me.
  1. I lean left - pretty far left. I'm prepared to pay more taxes to get the things I want implemented at the city level.  I simply can't ignore that the pockets of the world that are more socialist have more of the stuff I like (Holland, Finland, even Portland!).  
  2. I believe in evidence based research. I have a social sciences education background: critical thinking, statistics, etc. and I think systemically.  I cannot stand isolated anecdotal claims that people use to justify a case for a policy opinion or people think that systemic changes happen overnight especially when a cultural shift is required.  I respect academics, their methodology, and their potential contribution to policy..
  3. I love the science around city planning and how it impacts happiness and city health. I understand operations based concepts and have a mid level understanding of when tough choices are made for the good of a bigger system.
  4. I respect the history of my city. I am sad when businesses I care about close and their buildings torn down.  On some level, I don't like change (but most specifically in that area).
  5. I am not as unhappy with the current city council as most people seem to be.  I think most people have not done enough homework. I've read a little bit about how council issues were voted upon, I don't think most people have.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy with much of what is going on in the city, but people are placing blame often in places where the control does not exist.  I also have observed the different parties on council vote more similarly than one might think but Vision gets 100% of the blame for the controversial ones.
  6. I'm not a fan of the impact of cars on cities and communities but I drive one, and I'm not really an environmentalist,.. I just dislike noise, congestion and things that isolate people especially when totally unneeded and far less efficient.  I believe in sustainable and active transportation as a solution to city congestion where the geography is challenging AND I work in that industry and study that topic locally and globally (especially cycling). Bike paths and Translink projects weigh heavily in my voting choices but more than I'd like. I think they are actually way overemphasized on a city budget level as a divisive tactic by populist politicians (and sometimes the media) to distract from bigger issues. To me the data is clear on these topics I've managed to dive deeply on. To me, the ignorance around the potential benefits of transit and active transportation infrastructure is verging on anti-vax and climate change denial.  The real big ticket items really are housing and the decimation of our communities along with the opioid crisis.
Based on that, how to pick candidates to vote for?

Although I'm a data thinker, I'll admit right up front, a good portion of this is going to be emotional.  If, for example, for years I've witnessed first hand, and heard 3rd hand, NPA councilor Melissa De Genova outright lie, distort, manipulate, and belittle others,.. I have a hard time looking past that and she also taints her own party (for me). That is not fully rational, but it is how I will act.  
What I'm going to do is create a chart of traits/skills I want in a mayor and compare the known "realistic" candidates against that.  I will put weight on:
  • Academic credentials in one of these areas: public policy, city planning, sociology (or similar)
  • Business experience (any size): I think that is valuable
  • Not a total ass hat - yup,.. I need that (by that I mean, likable, honest, and not a self-serving narcissist)
  • A proven history of leading groups and bridging the divide between mixed viewpoints
  • Federal and/or Provincial level government connections or experience - HUGE (I'll elaborate more on that below).
  • Past city council or similar experience - Also huge. Don't learn how this works on my dime!  
(I'm not going to rate them, just put a yes, no, not sure/medium). 

Most of the "problems" people criticize about the current city council are largely not solvable just on a  local level.  Homelessness for example has much to do with our climate in relation to the rest of the country,.. Vision made stupid claims about solving it but no city can solve that without Provincial or Federal help on a large scale so I'm looking for candidates that do more than run a local business,.. I want to see experience working with all levels of government. Similarly the related housing crisis is a global economy issue,.. I suspect the city has very few levers to pull to make in dent in that on their own,.. I'll be looking for oversimplified, uneducated claims to "fix" those (and critical of them).

I likely will focus mostly on the mayor candidates and then look at the councillors that stand out only (below).

Mayor


Subject matter expertise: planning. public policyBusiness experienceNot an ass-hatFed/Prov level govt. connections/experiencePast Council experience (or similar)
SimNoYesYesNoNo
SylvesterYesnot sure/mediumYesnot sure/mediumYes
YoungNonot sure/mediumNoYesYes
Harding NoYesnot sure/mediumNoNo
StewartYesnot sure/mediumYesYesYes
BremnerNoYesYesNoYes

Some quick further colour commentary on the candidates for mayor.

Ken Sim: I struggle with NPA's past but feel he seems like a nice guy. I also get the feeling like he is a responsible business owner. The city has a big budget to run, so his business experience should not be ignored though I think it is small potatoes by comparison.  A few interviews I've seen and read of his make me feel NPA is avoiding communicating any meaningful plans and that he also is just not the right person for the job in general due to political inexperience. In debates, he does not seem to shine against the other candidates.  I feel like he isn't NPA's leader, but their puppet and often thrust in front of the camera,.. not really prepared to defend policy. Although I'm told by friends more knowledgable than me on the topic that many great infrastructure things have been built under NPA times, they usually were driven and proposed by non-NPA council members, but that still does speak their past ability to co-operate.  Of note, Sim was game to join Stephen Quinn on the "election cycle" piece, but unlike Sylvester and Stewart that rode commuters,.. he rode a cruiser (I'm just not sure what to make of that! Maybe he sees bikes as less a form of transportation and more like a toy? I think I'm ok with that.). Lastly, I find it hard to look past some of the people NPA allows to wear their name: eg. De Genova.  If Sim were to scour his party of people like her,.. I'd be more likely to vote for him.

Shauna Sylvester:  I doubt she is the strategic vote but going through this process, she feels most like my choice.  She has it all and on top of that, people I trust have seen her handle opposing crowds (Young's supporters) handily.  I do fear the vote split... I wish she didn't have to forego running as a councilor to attempt the mayor run. She is a proven relationship builder (said over and over again by people exposed to her on various councils), and has credentials specifically in the areas that will be needed to solve some of these tough issues.  I feel her focus on co-ops as a partial housing crisis solution is something I like,... but sounds thin as a "bold policy" and fear that her real life experience in this area led her to a "reality based" solution and not as impressive a grand vision people will gravitate towards and vote for.  Sylvester also is very clear on her opinions, almost to a fault (bike paths for example - she has studied them abroad and has no bones about it..). I think her opponents avoid clarity and unfortunately this works against people in elections.  Her past ties to Vision will be leveraged against her despite the fact she essentially parted from them long ago (unlike Bremner who was NPA last week!)  IMO, she would bring the council together more than anyone else and I like her for her intestinal fortitude to take the arrows that would be inevitable.

Wai Young: People are going to think I dislike Wai Young due to her populist tactics of taking the divisiveness of bike paths and blowing them into an actual issue when,.. they aren't (bike paths carry more workers in and out of the city per square metre of allocation than they take up, second only to buses and skytrains) but I digress.  I dislike her because she is a Trump-style kook that probably even made Harper cringe with her shenanigans when working for the federal Conservatives (yes, under Harper).  I cannot deny she meets my higher level govt. and business experience criteria but look how she uses it! She is nothing but a tool that will do and say anything to get in and she clearly is pandering to the rich elite types in Shaunessy. I do not care for the rich elites. The deeper on dug on her I did find she has a heart, and might know a thing or 2 about the opiod crisis and was shocked to discover she was a social worker! That said, that is not what she puts forward at all showing just how 2 faced she is: one policy she means, the other just to drive votes.  She actually is campaigning on working against other council members and not co-operation (Trump anyone?).   I'm told she whipped up a crowd to boo Shauna Sylvester who hadn't even answered a question yet in townhall in Kerrisdale. Just do a quick search about her in any other province,.. it is both comical and dangerous.  Judge for yourself.  As I said: ass-hat.  If you feel an urge to vote for her,.. you may aswell stop reading this.

Fred Harding:  I don't know much about this candidate but a few things about him rub me the wrong way despite clear business experience and probably a good understanding of law enforcement.  First off, he called himself a libertarian. That title does not conjure good images for me. Second, I grew up in West Van, and never felt the police there were a force of good like I feel the VPD are.  I was a teenager so I'll let that slide though I do wonder if he'd tinker too much with one piece that we seem ok in here (VPD) compared to the broken RCMP and similar organizations. His policies seem heavy handed and punitive,.. not educational.  That said, he has glommed onto a few specific housing related levers that are maybe over simplified but he believes them and they exist in a real world, unlike the vague YES, and NPA statements on the same topic.  I think my big objection to this guy isn't about him, but rather he is politically opposite to me.  I do wonder if he might have insight (no pun intended) to opiod solutions in the DTES but I've not heard him say that.  I have, however, heard him talk about seasonal bike paths which shows his complete lack of understanding for what is going on there in year over year growth. Update: His party has taken an anti-SOGI stance on the schoolboard that doesn't just sound like a "I wish it was handled better" issue... but rather bigotry. Related article here.  That does not sit right with me.

Kennedy Stewart: In my table above, Kennedy Stewart comes out on top.  The fact is he has the chops and has "other layer political connections" to tackle the housing thing as much as anyone else.  Other places pay to consult on these topics (maybe not the opioids), to me than means something - he is an expert. His knowledge of Provincial and Federal politics and connections there appear to me like assets.  I find him likable, but not salesy and like his ability to casually convey complex ideas and make them understandable.  In many ways, I feel he is kind of like me - a renter, and pragmatic, but somehow I still like Sylvester more.  The reason I feel my vote may go to him is my fear of vote splitting and he obviously is perceived as the biggest risk to the right given the smearing dollars being aimed mostly at him.

Hector Bremner: Let's not forget that just a few months ago Bremner would have happily led the NPAs, and before that worked for Christie Clark. Instead, he lost that vote and starts a new party overnight like a self-entitled child, and honestly, I think that might be his base: iphone using millennial types that will look at window dressing over substance.  Sure the guy's suits fit well, but he isn't selling me a Hootsuite license, he wants to run the city.  I just don't feel it. To me he embodies the worst of the ghost of Gregor Robinson combined with a non-policy which I'm sure is more NPA than we'd all be led to believe.  I do not see any real actionable policy in what I've read that can compare to the experience the other candidates.  He's not in it for us,.. he's in it for his ego and probably a more right of centre world than I can back.

Notables Running for Council 

Adriane Carr and Pete Fry:  I wish one of these 2 were running for Mayor but the fact that they are not says something.  My take is the Carr at least is seen as a very collaborative and well respected member of council by many inside and outside the Green party. When I look at Green voting history they tend to reflect my beliefs, sort of, especially when they differ from the Vision people. Their platform here, covers much of the same ground as all parties this election but I feel like their track record shows it is not a significant deviation from their main concerns all along (Colin Stein from Pricetags disagrees and indeed, many think the Greens are less left than they used to be). Speeding up permitting and adding parking to FSR totals to reduce building costs speak to changes that were opposing Vision on and ones I support. I will be voting heavily Green despite the perception by some that they have moved more to center on transportation and even affordable housing.

Melissa De Genova: Be clear, putting her in this section is NOT an endorsement. There may be other candidates in other parties that go to Twitter and misrepresent facts to stir up support, but she is the only one I've seen do it first hand.  Although it has been enjoyable to see her get owned in social media by experts and educated citizens, she scares the shit out of me.  How people continually vote for her eludes me.

Michael Wiebe: On Mt. Pleasant BIA, small business owner, respects Vancouver history and diversity, supports multi-modal transportation, evidence based, into creating usable city space: I'm in.  He was also a past Parks Board chair so knows the system.

Jean Swanson: Sort of understated this time around, this Order of Canada recipient HAS to be on anyone's list that wants to address poverty. That doesn't mean DTES only,.. that means all of our rents, and fighting estate speculation etc. When I envision a well rounded council, I see someone like her ensuring we have balance in that important and specific area.

Heather Deal: If you have a hate on for Vision, this will not resonate with you.  I simply cannot deny that she seems to be the more pure part of their "vision" and I feel she has been a positive force for the environment, the arts, and tricky issues like reconciliation. Over many terms as a councilor she has proven worthy of my vote and I do want some past councilors on-board (and not Bremner..) just to ensure the city workers themselves don't get munched and lose momentum because a council takes too hard a right turn without knowing how certain decisions were made and why.

Anyone in the Coaltion party: Aside from associating with Wai Young, these people should be put nowhere near city council. More than once I've found a candidate that interested me and been let down.  Ken Charko for example: champion of the arts and owner/manager of one of the last standing independent movie theatres: the Dunbar.  Do not be fooled though, listen to his spam phone calls or texts and he is more Wai Young, and less a champion of the working class than he might want you to believe.

Notables for School Board

My sister is a teacher and I do think teachers know more about who is doing what for the benefit of the board (or not). Their union gives them a list of people to consider and why and my own research (though limited) hit on some of the same people. 

Estrellita Gonzalez: I had the pleasure of speaking directly to this woman and my parting impression was  "I could work with her" (as in at my job). She comes across as collaborative and when I tried to dig up some dirt and ask what parties she felt she could work with, she cited an array of people from many parties (including NPA). She was unwilling to dish dirt, but did subtly give me a hint that I felt was worth applying to my research.  That hint was to take a look at the initiatives put forward. Some School Board members have done very little, but she is not one of them.  I like the fact that she is a small business owner and has a background in Business Administration. 

 Allan Wong: Long standing and well respected Vision trustee. This is probably the only Vision person I can stand behind at this point - his history stands alone from his party (which again, I don't have big problems with but the brand has been made toxic).

Pratpal Kaur Gill: She is from Vancouver 1st which I have concerns about but there is buzz about her. She is really pushing the financial and technical literacy in schools and personally I feel that is lacking from what I hear.  I see others I know mentioning her and they also would likely favour her party so I feel that says something and bears further investigation.  Update: See my anti-SOGI comment above under Fred Harding,.. I do not know at this time where she stands on this.

Carrie Bercic: In addition to wanting to increase childcare spaces and the usual stuff she has championed a push button topic for me while on council... putting a stop to public funds going to elite private schools. That alone gets my vote and reflects well on the OneCity party.

Yes party in general: Like the Christie Clark Provincial Liberals they come from, Yes supports public funds going to private schools (not only that - but disguised in the mixed bag of "more chioice"_.  NO.

Onecity in general: If your big issue is affordability,.. Onecity candidates seem to be really pushing the increase of childcare spaces,.. that seems like an interesting way for the school board to help with that issue and I support it.

Notables for Parks Board

Although for the first time in my life I spent time IN the parks board office in Stanley Park this year (awesome building!),.. I know very little about how it works and what the dynamics are there.  In my work, we've found them to generally not be open to cycling related initiatives despite being chaired by a Green person. There is probably more to it but if you read profiles of Parks Board people, they sound very similar regardless of party.  I love parks and want more,... I feel I should know more.

My high level observations reading profile and other slate speculators:
  • COPE has some people that speak my language here.  In particular they want more pocket parks and want to protect parks from other uses (I do suspect they may not share my views on the Cornwall bike lane issue - I don't want to see a bikelane in Kits beach but I think that strip of grass on Cornwall is bettert han routing through a busy parking lot!), I will be voting for Irwin and Giesbrecht none-the-less.
  • Coaltiton candidates focus on doubling cleaning crews due to needles,.. I'd rather they focus on the reason needles are found in parks...#populistpandering!
  • The Greens seem to be fielding people with some relevant skillsets like horticulture and urban farming - which I think we need but I do not know if that makes them able to juggle a budget.. 
  • Many of the IDEA candidates and independents seem to focus on single issues (eg. Nelson Park),.. I won't vote for that.
  • I feel the reduction of pay parking to be a pandering kind of tactic.  How about increasing bike parking, and access for multi-modal transportation? (I'm looking at you Vancouver 1st party!)
  • I'm not so anti-NPA in this area.  At least on paper, their candidates seem to have good ideas and good resumes for the job at hand.
  • When we are talking about parks, we are talking about land. I feel indigenous interests seem very unrepresented in an area where I'd expect them to be. I was pleased to see some candidates mention reconciliation policies.  Even better, some candidates themselves have indigenous ties and could bring their perspectives directly to the board.

My picks:

MAYOR
Shauna Sylvester (I still fear I might regret the vote split though...)

COUNCIL (choose up to 10)
Christine Boyle - OneCity
Pete Fry - Green
Adriane Carr - Green
Heather Deal - Vision
Jean Swanson - COPE
Micheal Wiebe - Green
Sarah Blythe - Independent
Brandon Yan - OneCity
Derrick O'keefe - COPE
Tanya Paz - Vision

SCHOOL BOARD (choose up to 9)
Jennifer Reddy – OneCity
Carrie Bercic – OneCity
Estrellita Gonzalez – Green
Erica Jaaf – OneCity
Allan Wong – Vision
Erin Arnold – Vision

Barb Parot - COPE
<undecided>
<undecided>

*Noone from Yes

PARKS BOARD (choose up to 7)
Dave Demers – Green
Cameron Zubko – Vision
Gwen Giesbrecht – COPE
John Irwin – COPE
Camil Dumont – Green
MacKinnon, Stuart – Green
Matthew Kagis - Work Less Party

Other resources of interest:

Seriously, this is the best segment,.. you get a sense for the human and policy,.. it made me like Young slightly more (not hard), Bremner less, and question Ken Sim's knowledge.  Syslvester and Stewart didn't change my opinion, but I liked them to start with.
CBC -Election cycle - Kennedy Stewart - commuter
CBC - Election cycle - Shauna Sylvester - commuter
CBC - Election cycle - Ken Sim - cruiser
CBC - Election cycle - Wai Young (seriously big of her to accept this format and news outlet!)
CBC - Election cycle - Hector Bremner - fixie

I really enjoyed looking at this meta-slate compiled by someone so you can see how lots of little groups are leaning (mostly very far left so not much variation in there...). Examples: Fire fighter unions, the Cambie Report, and some podcast dude (links to their articles within).
The Meta-Slate 

Other articles:

Vancouver 1st VSB candidate quits over anti-SOGI video

Wai Young goes on Trump-style attack of journalist


Too many Vancouver candidates promising more than they can deliver

HUB's candidate survey on cycling 

Price Tags Editor Slate

CoV How to Plan your vote