Road, rail and Canada’s emissions up 21%

The province has just committed $500,000 to a study of using the E&N rail line as a commuter route. I think Les Leyne says it best in his column when he said “E&N study could lead to right track“. Like Les, I am skeptical. We have been drowning in studies over rail transport of one kind or another, mostly involving LRT but most involving the Victoria – Langford section of the E&N. The most recent study found that for a mere $16 of initial capital cost, we could have something rail-like running out to the westshore (Source: C4CR Study – PDF ). Last year, a one day run of the E&N route in the morning took 21 minutes and was packed full, despite the $10 cost. In the past election, 93% of the Langford and Colwood voters voted to ask the provinical and federal governments to fund light rail.

Of course, all this talk of rail ignores the question of what emissions the roads and the cars that use them produce. After all, Canada’s emissions are up 21% from 1990, which makes us the worst offender in the developed world. While a lot of this increase comes from the oil sands, that oil is going to fuel our vehicles. A recent study found that the effects of road travel is higher than that of air travel, on a emissions basis. Stephen Rees of Vancouver talks a little bit about what this means for the lower mainland region. Of course, Gateway is championed by the same Kevin Falcon that today announced the study.

So what is the future? I hope it is one of action. Of course, you can help. Call Kevin Falcon or John Baird (the Federal Transport minister) and tell them you want rail here on the Island.

Thoughts on the election

It has been almost two weeks since the election and I have been doing a great deal of thinking. . These past two weeks have been a mad scramble as I finish up coursework for my college term. I have had some time to chat with various people and think myself about what it all means. So what did I learn?

Running for office is a lot of fun

I had a blast doing almost everything with the campaign. Mainstreeting and talking with people at doors was a real high. There is a vast diversity of people in Oak Bay and in that diversity there are many smart and informed people.

I loved working on the website and all the other flyers. Doing this work allowed me to hone my message and think hard about the core ideas I wanted to talk about. I enjoyed posting on this website. It kept my hand in the writing game.

There are a lot of people in Oak Bay who want a young person on council

The vast majority people I talked to were receptive, be at it the door or on the street. Even if they didn’t agree with me on some or all of the issues, they all saw the value in having a young person on council. There were a few times that knowing that Oak Bay people cared was the only thing keeping me out there.

You get out what you put in

Although I lost, I did manage to collect over 1000 votes, 1167 to be exact. I spent just over $1000 , flyered about 1000 homes and knocked on a few hundred doors. I got about 400 visitors to my website. Basically, for every dollar I spent and every flyer I distributed, I got one vote. Does this hold true for the other challengers? Once their campaign financial documents are filed, I intend to pull them down and run some analysis. As for my own records, I will posting more details as soon as I finish my own campaign finance documents.

Not preparing a speech for the all candidates meeting worked for me

If you were there, you probably didn’t realize it, but I was operating on about 4 hours sleep, two hours the night before and two in the afternoon. I had spent a great deal of time thinking about what I was going to say but hadn’t actually written anything down. I enjoy speaking on the fly but have never talked to a strict time limit before and when that 45 second card went up, it through me off nearly every time.

Talking to people is the only way to go

This sounds obvious, but all that flyering and other non-contact stuff is only the window dressing. One of the most apparent ways this manifested self was with my signs. Of the nearly 50 I had out, only two of them came from the website. Every other sign came from personal contact of some kind, whether I knew the person beforehand or not.

Don’t worry about making a mistake with one person

The number of doors I flubbed with my delivery or people I tripped over my own tongue with while mainstreeting is huge, especially in the first few days. But I had to keep telling myself that this is only one person, there is going to be another person right around the corner. It also allowed me to try out different approaches to see what kind of reaction I got.

Accept defeat

I didn’t win a council seat. I didn’t even come close. But I knew entering into this race that my candidacy was a dark horse. Late in the campaign I set myself a personal goal of at least a 1000 votes. Setting this small goal allowed me to get out there in the last two weeks and hand deliver just under 1000 flyers and talk to many more people.

So what about 2011?

At this point in my life, I will likely run again in 2011. I don’t see myself moving in the next three years. The place I live is great, I pay almost criminally low rents and my landlord is amazing. Not to mention I live five blocks from Willows Beach, near shopping of all kinds, walking distance to Camosun and on a bus route to UVic and Downtown. But the world changes. As a renter, I have zero housing security. My house could be sold tomorrow.

But, all in all, I regret none of it. I refuse to beat myself up about thinking that if I had just knocked a few (hundred) more doors I would have made it. Or if I had done a million of the other things I thought about during the race.

Innovative laneways from Vancouver

Like Oak Bay, the City of Vancouver is blessed with a great deal of laneways. Vancouver has already made the great leap to allow laneway housing, as I talked about early this month, but now they are looking at the laneway itself, specifically how to make it more environmentally friendly.

Called the “Country Lane” Treatment or Environmental Residential Lane, Vancouver has specifically been experimenting with three different types of surfaces.

The first lane uses a mix of concrete paving stones, which allow water to flow between them, plastic mats and concrete driving strips. For those not in Vancouver, the laneway can be seen in the following satellite photo:

View Larger Map

The second lane uses plastics mats as well, but uses gravel to fill them instead of concrete. Like the previous lane, it has been helpfully been photographed and is on Google:

View Larger Map

The third lane does away with concrete entirely, using plastic mats filled with either plants or gravel. You can take a peak at it from the air via Google:

View Larger Map

As the website points out, these lanes, which are designed to reduce dust, keep water out of the sewers and storm sewers, and do a host of other nice things, have won awards. Which brings us down to the sticky part, the paying for these lanes. There are few details on the Vancouver website, but it looks like cost sharing between the city and the local residents via a tax improvement district. This is not unique to Vancouver. Lots of cities do it, including Saanich with their Local Area Services plan.

Most of the laneways in Oak Bay are paved with asphalt and those that aren’t are just straight gravel or dirt. The asphalt in many of these lanes is starting to fall apart and will likely need replacing. Given the major costs that Oak Bay faces with sewers and storm sewers over the next few years, ideas such as these that keep water out of those pipes are much needed.

The need for complete streets

Complete street transformation in University Place, Washington
Complete street transformation in University Place, Washington Image Source:

One of the biggest challenges of the next 50 years is the return to a balance of transportation options, something that has been heavily skewed towards the car for a very long time. Founded around the idea that our current streets are incomplete due to this skewing, the Complete Streets movement seeks to restore that balance.

What does this mean for Oak Bay? At first glance, you would think we are doing fairly well here. Our bicycling percentage is fairly high (6% according to the 2006 census data – PDF) and Bike to Work Week has been growing for years.

What can a municipal government like Oak Bay do? While we cannot do as much as California, which recently passed complete streets legislation, we can make certain that our little part of the world is better for everybody. Usually this takes money, as streets need to be physically reconfigured to allow better access by pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users. Thankfully, the provincial government, via Bike BC and its Cycling Infrastructure Partnerships Program, has been cost sharing with muncipal governments for a few years now.

Of course, one of the key challenges Oak Bay faces is our older population and how to help that population stay active. One of the major barriers to physical activity is the incompleteness of our streets and thus it is not surprising that the American Association of Retired People (AARP) is one of the strongest supporters of complete streets in US. Their surveys have found that many older people would walk, bike or take transit more if the streets were better built. You can read more in their press release.

Getting to complete streets requires residents stand up and ask their governments to help them bike, walk and ride transit more. Thankfully, the people have a great page up on how to get complete streets in your community.

Election followup story by Oak Bay News

Well, the election is done and the post-mortems have started. Oak Bay News’ Vivian Moreau has posted a piece about the results, declaring Tara Ney a “surprise winner”. I am likewise surprised she polled as well as she did, given she is a non-incumbent. In contrast, in 2005, Nils Jensen and Frank Carson, Jr, both incumbents, topped the polls. That being said, I am uncertain whether Tara is that elusive fourth vote on bike lanes and other key issues. She struck me as progressive, intelligent and passionate, so I am hopeful.

The future

Now that the election is done, the future awaits. While personally I have a college term to finish, I have also been thinking about how I can make change in Oak Bay in the next three years. I have been kicking around some ideas and so I will keep this website running, posting my thoughts about where Oak Bay can change as well what council is up to.

Thank you!

Well, the unofficial results are in (PDF link). Sadly, I did not get elected, but I am content. I think Michelle Kirby and I both proved that young people can get out the vote in Oak Bay.

If you have one of my signs, I will be coming around tomorrow to pick them. If you want to pull them and put them by your door, that is fine.

Thank you for supporting my campaign. It was a lot of fun. Now I have an undergrad to finish…

Times Colonist finally posts candidate profiles

The Times Colonist has been teasing people in their community profiles that they would post full candidate profiles online. Well, they are now up and you can read the Oak Bay page. I don’t expect many people to see these and to date I haven’t had any traffic from the TC site.

Why don’t I expect many people to see them? In order to find them on the main TC site, you have to click on the Municipal Elections 08 banner, which looks exactly like every other advertising banner on their site, then you have to click on the map, which is rather difficult if you are trying for a small municipality like Oak Bay or View Royal.

All of this makes me sad, because nobody is going to get out and vote if they don’t understand the issues are where the candidates stand on them. This is why I spent a great deal of time trying to find somebody to organize an all candidates meeting. In previous elections, the TC has actually printed the full profiles, something they likely opted not to do because of the higher costs and lower profits throughout the newspaper industry, although I will note that the TC subscriber numbers are actually fairly steady.

Followup to all candidates meeting

Yesterday evening was the All Candidates meeting at Monterey Centre. The room was standing room only, with easily several hundred people there. It was great to see so many people interested in the municipal elections. I want to express my gratitude to the Oak Bay Business Improvement Area and the Oak Bay Residents Association for hosting the event. I wish we could have had more, as many people I have spoken to today said they would have gone but that they had not heard about it. Well, I guess there is always 2011…

Solving the housing crisis by cutting off water to illegal suites

The Central Saanich Council has come across a unique solution to solving the housing crisis: cutting off water to “persistent offenders.” Quite frankly, I’m horrified. Access to fresh water is a fundamental human right, not something to be used by a government in a dispute with a land owner. In the Times Colonist article, Denis Pilon, a UVic Political Science prof, points out that the person most likely to be hurt is the renter, not the landlord. This isn’t surprising, as any time council and a landlord get involved in a dispute, the renter gets caught in the crossfire.

All of this talk of punishing landlords who rent out substandard housing ignores the reality that landlords can rent out this type of housing because of the massive housing crisis in our city, a crisis that can partly be laid at the feet of our municipal councils, who have failed to provide real leadership.

Tonight at 7pm is the All Candidates meeting in the Garry Oak room of the Monterey Centre. Please come out and learn about each candidate stands for and ask us all questions. Hope to see you there.