Thursday, March 29, 2012

SD40 and School Parking

So today, let's have a closer look at the parking policies of NWSS.

My son got, in his registration package, a nice summary of student parking. Did you know that those students lucky enough to own cars can park in the school lots? Well, not surprising. But guess the cost. Go on, you'll never guess.

It costs $2 to park.

A year.

This is wrong on so many levels I don't know where to begin.

For starters, since when is our school district so flush with cash that it can afford to give away freebies like this?

Then, is this what we are trying to teach students? To expect free parking? Is this in any way reflective of reality?

Just FYI, I have absolutely no intention of ever purchasing a vehicle for myself, let alone for my kids. Neither of my sons have shown any interest in taking driving lessons, and none of their friends talk about it either. I suspect that many of the urban young no longer see owning their own car as a rite of passage of some kind. My kids are transit-trained and completely independently mobile. Of course, if we lived up the valley or something, things might be different. But why should NWSS - a fully urban school - be stuck in the 80's?

[NWSS, care of Google Maps satellite view]

Now, check out the aerial view of NWSS. Just have a gander at exactly how much of the space is pavement - dedicated to vehicle parking. It's a phenomenal amount. Interestingly, I recall that a number of years ago, when the first "new high school" conversations were happening, there was a proposal to sell off some of this land, in order to finance a nice new school with underground parking and nice bike parking (which certainly is not what we're gonna get now). This proposal went nowhere, sadly, for reasons that remain unclear to me to this day - nothing to do with that burial site, either - that surfaced later. More along the lines of NIMBYism about towers and preserving green space (ummm, what green space?).

Let's now consider those kids (the majority of 'em) who don't drive themselves to school. What perks do they get? Well, basically none! Here's a list of what they don't get:
  • They don't get discounted fare passes (just photo ID to prove that you're a student). Not even if they live in Queensborough.
  • They don't get covered, secure bike parking at the school, just two open-air stands that are kind of under an awning.
  • Cyclists are not provided with any facilities to store their bike gear, other than a standard locker (which in many cases is quite far away from the bike racks).
  • Cyclists don't get a safe route to approach the school. They have to compete with parents dropping their kids off, who regularly park in the no-stopping zone that doubles as the only bike route to the front door and the bike racks.
  • Students don't get bus routes that take them to school. The most obvious cross-town bus routes do not actually stop at the school. The closest they get is 2 blocks away. (This is, of course, not under SD40's direct control, but I'm sure if they cared they could do something.) Bus service from Queensborough is pretty abysmal.
Most of these things don't cost a lot of money. Imagine - you could charge students for parking and make enough revenue to pay for the improvements.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Another Overpass Idea

Love this.

It's the new Peace Bridge in Calgary, a pedestrian and bike crossing.

This is what good architecture looks like. Something to consider for the pedestrian link to Queensborough...although this isn't high enough, it still shows what a nice job can be done.

Contrast this to the yucky-and-cheap solutions we usually get:

[the cage that is the overpass to the Quay]

[McBride pedestrian bridge, complete with ads]

Thanks to Gordon Price for passing it around.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Police State that is SD40

So, my 2 teenaged sons have been attending school here in New West since kindergarten.

I can't honestly remember the last time I had to provide a lot of documentation proving that we're all residents of New West, but I suppose in the dark, distant past (kindergarten?) I must've done this.

Then, earlier this year, I received a notice from our son's middle school that SD40 was now moving to collect the required documentation from New West families with kids in Kindergarten, Grade 4 and Grade 8. When Older Son was in Grade 8, we never received such a notice, but oh well, I guess times change and required documentation gets more, well, required. What, exactly, it's required for, is not explained.

OK, so let's just have a look at this list of required documentation.

Here we go folks, be prepared to be totally amazed, then appalled, and then finally incredulous, at this exhaustive list, and if you don't have children in the school system, well, be thankful.

I am supposed to prepare:
1. One of the following  for each parent
- Canadian birth certificate
- Canadian passport
- Canadian citizenship card
- confirmation of landing/permanent residence AND passport
- permanent residence card
- first nations or band card

2. For the student, one of the following:
- Canadian birth certificate
- Canadian passport
- Canadian citizenship card
- confirmation of landing/permanent residence AND passport
- permanent residence card
- first nations or band card
- refugee claimant documentation
- district letter of authority if parents are on work or study permit

3. proof of BC residency for parents, two of the following (all must show name and address)
- long term tenancy agreement
- property purchase agreement
- income tax statement
- property tax statement
- utility bill
- ICBC registration
- other legal documentation proving BC residency

4. proof of guardianship, one of the following:
- paper birth certificate of child, with both parents named (certified English translation, if req'd)
- Canada Child Tax Benefit notice
- parent's confirmation of permanent residency, or records of landing, or valid immigration documentation with kids named
- other original documentation that proves that you are indeed the guardian of this kid, to the satisfaction of the school principal.

Note: if the parents don't live together, provide a written agreement, or court order.  If you are a guardian, provide documentation showing legal guardianship in the form of a court order, or will. Notarized forms may not be sufficient.

Got that?

Remember, no photocopies!! SD40 needs the original documents!! The idea is, I guess, that you show up at the office at 9 am one fine morning with the stack in hand, and the secretary will kindly photocopy it for you while you wait, and then you can go. Oh, yes, you'll have to call in sick that morning, but it's all for the good, right?

To put it quite bluntly, this is completely, whackdoodle, over-the-top retarded.

SD40 needs a minimum of 6 separate, original pieces of documentation to "update their records"? Excuse me? Let's put this in perspective. This is more than it takes to become a Canadian citizen, to qualify for BC medical coverage, or to buy a house.

If they think I'm gonna comply, they're smokin' dope. I'm gonna be callin' the magic number at the bottom of the notice and giving them an earful. And writing every single school trustee.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Birthday Geekiness

So we are a family of geeks. Truly. Here's more proof, in case you needed any:

I recently had a birthday, and am (this year) a perfect square. Yeh, I'm 49. A square of prime numbers, no less! This is probably the last time that'll happen to me! I told everyone at the office. Luckily I work in an engineering firm so they mostly got it without me having to explain...

But wait, there's more! Another cool thing about my family is that my father's birth year and mine happen to add to 100. Dad was born in '37, and myself in '63. So in the year 2000, I turned 37 and my father, 63! Woah! Way cool! Good thing I figured this out, since it's now the only way I can remember how old my parents are...

And then, just to prove this condition is genetic, here's another fun birthday fact, which my son figured out last month just in time for his birthday:

He was born on Feb 21. So this year, his birthday was:


A palindrome. How awesome is that??? Too bad he didn't turn 12, or 21.

Monday, March 12, 2012


I an lucky enough to own an absolutely stunning pair of tanned deerhide gauntlets. I think they came from the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, back when my sister had a connection there and spotted them in the gallery shop, 25 years ago. As I recall, they cost me a bundle. As in, so-expensive-it-makes-you-grit-your-teeth; fur-coat territory. And I was a student at the time. But I've never, ever regretted the purchase.

[my stunning gloves]

They are unlined. The fur on them is mink or marten or something, they have really nice beadwork, and fringes. Man, I love 'em!

I wear them for skiing, with wool gloves inside. They outperform any modern glove; I prefer these to the several pairs of "outdoor performance" mitts and gloves I have purchased over the years (which cost about 1/10 of what these things did). They keep me warmer, dry faster, and look absolutely fantastic. I get lots of comments on them.

Anyways, after decades of use they are starting to show their age. The stitching in the fingers is coming apart and the leather is wearing through.

So, for my birthday this year, my darling husband took them into the shoe repair shop on 6th and had the guy repair them. He did a fantastic job, and was happy to do it too. He picked some moosehide to match.

[patches on the fingers]

[restitching on the palm seam]

Here's to another 25 years on these babies!

That repair guy is excellent. He fixes more than shoes. Here's something else he's worked his mojo on:

[meet Mr. I]

This objet-d'art, ladies and gentlement, is my purse. Needless to say, it is yet another something I'm not in a hurry to part with! The zipper on it died. Cheap Chinese, said Mr. New West Cobbler. One session with him and it was back in action.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pattullo Traffic 2013-????

Next year, the new Port Mann bridge will open. It will be tolled.

What will this do to traffic on the Pattullo - new or not?

Chances are, it will increase. Maybe not much during the rush hour, when the entire system is already plugged, and motorists might well prefer the speedier 10-lane Port Mann even at $3/crossing, but after hours when time isn't so much a concern, I expect that folks will be opting for the free alternative.

So I predict that the Pattullo bridge and the attached road system will experience rush-hour-like traffic conditions 18 hours a day. Starting next year.

Certainly something to look forward to, eh? It is no wonder that New West City Council is starting to explore "traffic management strategies". One such strategy is to call for tolling on the bridge as soon as the Port Mann tolls kick in. Of course, New West cannot implement tolls unilaterally. It requires all the mayors to agree, and then to lobby Translink and likely the Province as well, to allow implementation.  Not that doing this is making us any friends, of course. New West is already being seen as a hotbed of NIMBYism for protesting that 450,000 single-occupancy cars driving through per day is really at the limit of what we can take.

[Major Road Network in New Westminster; blue lines are at least partially funded by TransLink, the red lines are under Provincial jurisdiction. click to enlarge.]

There are, of course, other options to "manage" traffic; things like ill-timed traffic lights, barriers, more crosswalks...but it isn't clear to me that New Westminster could implement any of these along the most-affected routes. As you can see in the picture above, McBride, Royal, and East Columbia are part of TransLink's "Major Road Network". While these roads are owned and operated by New Westminster, they are at least partially funded by TransLink. So presumably any changes to their configuration would have to be done in agreement with TransLink.

So, what do you think New Westminster should do?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hand-Made vs Mall-Wart

Jen Arbo's tirade against the dollar-store-ization of our little part of the planet struck a nerve. With me, really brings into focus the effect that mass consumerism has had on our planet. And here's an illustrative parable, one that involves, funnily enough, Jen and myself...

I'm passionate about a few things, knitting being one. In fact, I'm practically obsessed with knitting socks! I blog about it. I dream about it. I've joined a local knitting group so I can talk about it and show off my various knitted socks. The sock drawers of my relatives are filled with the products of my needles.

Now, I know Jen. She asked me to knit her a pair of socks recently, which I happily did. She even offered to pay me. Sweet, but, as every knitter knows, the only possible response is to turn the offer of payment down, because...

There is no way that anyone could afford a pair of hand-knit socks if they were to pay what it really cost.

You know what a pair of hand-knit socks cost? At minimum wage, about $200. Socks. Yep. The yarn will run you $10 for cheap 'n nasty, to $30 for a beautiful hand-dyed skein. The rest is labour. What are you getting for $200? Well, one-of-a-kind. They don't fit better, but they do last longer. A lot longer. And since they took all that effort/money to make, you tend to repair them, not throw them away, so that makes them last years. On the downside, you are stuck with them for a long time, which means you can't keep up with the "latest look" in socks. And they don't look all that classy with a skirt.

But, this is the value that hand-made things used to have. People in the past actually paid this amount for their socks (or they spent the time and made 'em themselves, while watching the goats). Which is why they wore them to rags, and why they were poor. Oh, and fashion? Forget that. It was all about tradition.

So was it better then? Or better now? As with so many things, I'm not sure.

On the one hand: beautifully crafted one-of-a-kind, last-forever-and-repair stuff, and on the other: fashionable clothing and furniture, redecorating, cheap-enough-so-everyone-can-afford.

Society has shifted, thanks to industrialization and mass production - and this started decades ago, before "globalization". There are many sides to this societal shift and we are all affected. Who hasn't inherited stuff that they don't like and can't use (china, dinnerware, crystal, furniture...) because it isn't to their personal "taste"? (and, why is "taste" important? whatever happened to "tradition"?) Whose garage isn't stuffed full of items they use 1x per year? Who doesn't rent out mini-storage because their own home is "too small"? Who hasn't participated in children's birthday parties, with their incredible surfeit of plastic goods and built-in consumer messaging? (don't even start on Christmas.) Who doesn't buy magazines that advise you to change your decor by buying new towels or repainting, or craft magazines that advertise "quick and easy" projects? Who doesn't give away bags of clothing to the thrift store on a quarterly basis? I am as guilty as the next.

For me, the problem isn't the dollar store. It's the fact that people have replaced the joy and discipline of creating something time-consuming themselves, with shopping. The arrival of mass-consumerism and advertising has changed people's appreciation of what it takes to make something, has changed what "quality" means, and has changed people's expectations of "how much is enough".

This is deeper than just the dollar stores. They're just a symbol.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Why Does Gas Cost So Much?

Here's an interesting graph for all you nerds out there:

The point of this graph is that the price of oil is strongly correlated to the price of gas (yes, this graph is for the US, but same argument applies to Canadian gas prices, since our gas is made from the same world-market oil.).

If the price of gas and the price of oil were the same (ie. it cost nothing to make the gas from oil) then you'd see the dots lining up along the blue diagonal line. They don't; they are offset by a pretty constant 50 cents (per gallon) - sometimes you get excursions of 75 cents. Each dot represents a week, so you see that most of these excursions don't last long, and aren't consistent. This extra money goes to all the folks who make, ship, and sell you the gas. It's what it costs to do all these things (which themselves take oil, of course) + profit, and the total hasn't changed much over the time period of the graph (1995 - 2012).

It's pretty clear that most of the cost of gas is simply explained by the price of oil.

And that price is increasing, because the supply has maxed out, and because demand is increasing, mostly in Asia (over 50% of the world's oil now goes there). In this kind of market, countries are in a bidding war and prices are very volatile, and very unlikely to get significantly lower (unless they get so high that they induce recession - causing crashing demand - which is also bad).

Cue to discussion about Pattullo Bridge and the future of the trucking industry, please!