Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Envision 2032

This past weekend, I attended a workshop run by New West City on their Community Sustainability Plan.

The City wants to engage citizens in what a "sustainable" New Westminster would look like, and wants to use this plan to guide all their other planning activities (transportation, energy, waste management, housing, heritage preservation, land use & planning, community well-being, parks 'n rec, ...).

I tell you, it was a brutal schedule! An "inspirational kick-off" event was held Friday evening (starting at 6:30, which didn't give me enough time to eat dinner!) - at which there were many excellent speakers - followed by an 8:30 start on Saturday with a morning full of break-out sessions and brainstorming. Barely time for breakfast! Ooof!

The City has identified 11 policy areas and asked us to envision what New Westminster would be doing / would look like in these areas in 2022, 2032, and 2062. Wow; 50 years out. I'll be dead. But our City won't be....

There are many areas in which I have a hard time making a contribution. Being a cone-headed scientist, my focus really tends to be on energy and transportation issues (geez, have you noticed?). I'm glad that our City has many visionary residents who were there to educate me about their vision for the arts, for housing, for accessibility (think demographic changes!), childcare, parks, business development...

Here are some points to consider when crafting your personal vision of what our city should look like:
  • New Westminster's population is expected to hit 100,000 in the next generation or so (current population: about 60,000).
  • the number of children will increase by several thousand
  • the number of seniors will increase even more!
  • New Westminster has its own electrical utility (buys wholesale electricity from BCHydro and resells to the residents. New West owns all the distribution network and the meters)
  • we have our own school district, which gets its own funding from the Province.
  • New West has a working river front, railyards, SkyTrain stations, and bus routes. And many hills!
  • there is effectively no arable land in our City; all our food comes from outside
  • there are 400,000 vehicles moving through our City today. The overwhelming majority of this traffic is not local.
  • what effect will climate change have, locally?
To become (more) sustainable, we need to reduce the amount of energy we use. Every resident, every business, every institution, and the City as a corporation needs to reduce energy by a large amount (think 80% by 2062 and you're in the ballpark !). In fact, since we're starting to run out of cheap oil, this will happen regardless of what we want, think, or do! The idea is to plan ahead: we want to be able to ramp down the "energy thermostat" while maintaining a high quality of life.

So, what infrastructure, community amenities, policies, plans, mitigation strategies do we need, to get us started on this path?

Anyways, if you missed this session and would like to contribute (or, if you did, and need to add more), go here!

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