BTWW 2019

My ride to work for Bike To Work Week yesterday was pretty typical. Nice weather for a 20km ride, and 4 people attempted to murder me.

One was a person in an SUV blowing through a stop sign into my path on a residential Vancouver street, which was easy to forgive because she gave me that ubiquitous “oops” wave. One person pulled a bone-headed u-turn right in front of me as I am going down a hill on another designated bike route in Vancouver, causing me to lock up both wheels on slick streets. No “oops” wave this time, but he did give me a dismissive spin of his tires as he shot away from the scene, which I guess is acknowledgement. One was an attempted dooring on a traffic-calmed bike route, followed a few hundred metres later by a guy in a CLK brush-passing me at 50km/h when I try to stay out of the door zone on another traffic calmed bike route. I foiled them all.

There were also two places where City works crews (one in Burnaby, one in Vancouver) chose to completely close off a relatively safe bike route with no warning and no indications of alternative routes in order to do horticulture work, which is kinda a nice nod to Bike to Work Week.

There were also three places where I was forced to make sketchy moves on the bike because of horrid cycling infrastructure failures. One infrastructure failure in Burnaby is a long-standing grievance at Royal Oak station that will get someone killed eventually. Another is the relatively new one in Burnaby I have already lamented, that the City of Burnaby has now made even worse with the addition of a pedestrian fence. The third one is related to recent construction at the Nanaimo Skytrain Station in Vancouver that has been there for a few months, and seems like it may continue to be there for a very long time. All three of them are adjacent to or near transit stations, so perhaps I should be complaining to TransLink? But not one of them would be acceptable, or last this long, if it was cars forced to make the sketchy move. If drivers were forced to even lighten up slightly on the gas pedal for a brief moment, there would be signs and flagging people and traffic studies. Because even where cycling routes meet transit stations in pedestrian-heavy areas adjacent to popular parks, it is cars that are accommodated first, and the rest of us can fuck right off and get killed. In the context of a ride where several people in cars did actually try to kill me, these little grievances and seemingly minor inconveniences start to grind your gears.

But I’m tired of complaining. And I’m tired of hearing that “scofflaw cyclists” are the bane of urban areas. I’m tired of reading study after study showing that pedestrians and cyclists are getting killed by cars at increasing rates at the same time that driver fatalities are going down. I am tired of Police and ICBC telling me to make eye contact and dress up like a Christmas tree or I had it coming when some asshole left hooks me. I am tired of the profound gap between the lack of responsibility that the people who choose to use cars feel, and their absolute righteousness around their use of cars. I am tired of arguing for basic cycling infrastructure against the societal priority of (preferably free) storage of cars in all public space. I am tired of meetings at City Hall where the only time we discuss cycling infrastructure, it is in the context of how we can maybe afford some half-measure some time off in the future if it doesn’t irritate too many people, but we certainly can’t afford to build something that is safe, connected, and integrated. I’m tired of ceding so much space and energy and money and atmosphere to cars. I’m tired of us treating this City-destroying and planet-killing addiction like it is untreatable, or even beneficial. I’m sick and tired of car culture, of Motordom.

Cycling is making me tired. But it isn’t my legs that hurt, its my heart. I’m afraid that this weariness has taken away the joy I used to get from riding a bicycle.

Voting For

My regular readers (Hi Mom!) will not be shocked to find out I have a bias this Federal Election. Still, there are some people who follow me on social media or read this blog hoping to read about City Council stuff who get angry that I sully that with politics. Some feel that I need to bury my partisan opinions not that I am elected and pretend I support everyone’s ideas equally. If you fall in this camp, I respectfully disagree, and suggest you might want to skip this post and go on to another one where I am ranting about bike lanes or climate change or housing or some other “non-political” subject.

This election has had some holding their nose, but I feel fortunate that I have someone and something to vote for in this election. I have not always been a strong supporter of the NDP (a point one of the campaign managers in this election tried to make hay with when he was running against me in the Muni election – strangely not recognizing it undermined his own narrative that I was a hopeless partisan hack, but I digress…) but I have become a stronger one with each passing year.

At the Federal level, I was inspired by the strength, vision, and positivity of Jack Layton. I appreciate that it was Tom Mulcair who served as Judge, Jury and Executioner on the corruption of the Harper government and opened up the gap that Trudeau was ultimately more effective at filling in 2015. I can debate at length (and have!) the direction the NDP Campaign went that election, but the principles of the party, including speaking out strongly against the Hijab ban, stood in contrast to the alleged progressiveness of the Liberals, who predictably swerved back to the Right once elected. I have had the opportunity to meet, eat, and ride bikes with Jagmeet Singh, and am always amazed at his grace, his firmness of vision, and the intensity with which he listens. He sees people as good, and sees Canada as a force for good, and wants to see that vision realized. Dude is the real deal.

Fortunately, here in New West we are represented by Peter Julian, and it is easy for me to support him as well. He has a well-deserved reputation as one of the hardest working MPs. His busy Constituency Office here in New West has helped thousands of people address everyday problems with the federal government. He has spent more than a decade running seminars to help people with disabilities and other barriers assure they receive the benefits to which they are entitled in their income tax filings. Representing one of the most culturally diverse ridings in Canada, Peter has learned to greet constituents in dozens of languages (some put the count at 50) because he feels it is important that every resident of this riding feel welcome here. In Ottawa he is bringing forward issues that matter to this constituency, most recently including the Canadian Green New Deal bill he brought to Parliament, hoping we can begin to justly and fairly transition away from a fossil-fuel reliant economy.

I’ve got at least 1,000 more words about the other local candidates that I wrote a few times and deleted, because I am trying really hard to avoid negativity here. Perhaps I can sum it all up wondering where these people were before the election. Other parties parachuting in candidates with zero name recognition and no history working on issues in this community, only to have them avoid all candidates events and play duck-and weave with voters, will assure this remains an “NDP stronghold”. I see no effort by another party to develop a following, or even identify local leaders to carry their brand. Based on the last 5 years in this riding, it appears the NDP are the only party to take New Westminster seriously. After the election other parties will no doubt lament the NDP is unfair or too strong in New West, blaming voters for the work the parties and candidates themselves simply didn’t do to earn their votes.

No federal platform is perfect. There are things in the NDP platform I would like to see them push further on, and things I am critical of (e.g.: electric car subsidies are not great climate policy). Their housing plan is ambitious, and realistically relies less on incentivizing the market (which if done poorly only pushes prices up and is ultimately a better policy area for provincial and local governments) and instead emphasizes doing what Canadian governments did successfully in the decades between WW2 and Brian Mulroney: investing in subsidized housing to provide supply at the lowest parts of the affordability scale. The NDP Climate Plan pushes the edge of possibility (as it is now too late for half-measures) and rightfully centers the marginalized and those displaced by the inevitable economic shift. Their platform more holistically addresses Truth & Reconciliation than any other federal platform. The time for universal pharmacare and sliding-scale dental coverage is now, and will get our health care program up to speed with those provided in advanced European economies while ultimately saving the government and employers money. And we will pay for the (short-term) cost by taking the subsidies away from the companies that are using them to nuke our climate, and by charging more tax to very wealthy people. And, of course, the type of social investments the NDP are talking about are the type that actually grow an economy, not the type that the wealthy can squirrel away in the Caymans…

There is stuff in here for me to vote for, and lots of it.

So I count myself lucky. No holding my nose and no ill-informed strategic hedge betting. A local candidate who walks the walk and does the work, a federal leader I believe in, and a platform I can support. I voted NDP at the Advance Poll last Sunday morning and was enthusiastic in doing it, and on Monday I will be spending my time Getting out the Vote and thinking of a better Canada.

More recycling

There was a good letter in the Record that asked some questions about curbside recycling. So I thought I would try my best to answer them. They make reference to the current recycling yard is closing, if you are here wondering about that, I talked about that here. Short version: the road accessing the current recycling yard will most certainly NOT be accessible during most of the construction period for the Canada Games Pool replacement as it will be a hole in the ground for much of that time, so the City is working on some alternatives, and there will be more to report on this soon.

The most holistic answer to most of the questions in the letter is that the City of New Westminster does not operate in a vacuum, but is a relatively small community in a large, dynamic region. There are multiple jurisdictions involved in our solid waste systems, including Metro Vancouver (who manage all landfill waste and organic waste recycling) and the province (who manage paper and packaging recycling through Recycle BC). These operate alongside Extended Product Responsibility (EPR) programs (like oil waste management and tire recycling), and within a larger regional and global commodities market for the recycled materials, without which there would be no recycling at all.

So the answer to the question why is one type of thing collected at the curbside (newspapers and soup cans) and another is not (glass jars and Styrofoam) is because the organization that takes our recycling from us (be that a government agency, a commercial operation, or a hybrid of both) has the ability to dictate what they will and will not take as part of that commercial arrangement. If no-one will take a type of waste, has to go to landfill, so recycling relies on these agencies and businesses.

When we made the big shift to “comingled” recyclables a number of years ago, it necessarily sent us down a path where we were reliant on a certain type of Materials Recovery Facility to separate those wastes into material we can sell or have someone take off of our hands for a lower cost than sending the material to a landfill or the Burnaby incinerator. For example, the simplest reason why glass jars cannot go in comingled curbside recycling is because the newsprint and mixed paper has some value in the recycling market, and that value goes away if a little bit of broken glass is mixed in with it. We can sell recycled mixed paper for up to $85/Tonne (if we can find a customer, which is becoming harder as there is a significant oversupply of paper fibre right now), but if that paper is contaminated with a broken peanut butter jar, that paper is more likely going to landfill at a cost of $140/Tonne or more for disposal.

When it comes to “depot items”, there are a lot of things that cannot be recycled curbside, from waste paint to toasters to batteries, because handling them in a MRF is hazardous and results in contamination of potentially-recyclable materials. There may be a market for them if the initial separation of materials can happen, so they can;t go in the curbside bin, but can go in their own special bin in a collection point, be that London Drugs or a Return-It depot, or the tire store. This is why so much of our solid waste system regionally relies on education programs about recycling – what can got in curbside, and what can’t. Things that are “technically” recyclable become non-recyclable when they enter the wrong stream, and potentially make a bunch of other stuff not recyclable at the same time. As you allude to, putting technically recyclable stuff in the wrong stream may assuage guilt, it doesn’t help the environment.

Most of these technically-recyclable but not-at-the-curbside materials have multiple places they can be taken in New Westminster, including very likely, the place you bought the actual item. In my earlier post, I linked to this tool from Metro Vancouver that allows you to search for places where you recycle your wastes. There are a half dozen places in New Westminster where you can take Styrofoam or plastic shopping begs to recycle them. Glass jars can also go to a few places in town, but the commodity value of that waste glass is so low, that it is challenging to find anyone to take it. Of course, glass is environmentally inert and non-polluting, so aside from the cost ($140/Tonne +) there is little reason to divert it from the landfill, unless it can be brought into an industrial process like cement making at a lower environmental cost than other raw materials like crushed aggregate, but we are getting deep down the rabbit hole here…

The hardest part about this conversation for an environmentalist like me is the reaction you get when you tell people that recycling is not a particularly effective environmental intervention. For many materials, it simply makes no environmental or economic sense. “Reduce Reuse Recycle” is too often offered as a circular, as if they are all equal in weight when it comes to environmental sustainability. They should always instead be offered as a hierarchy. Reducing your use of single-use plastics and items that are difficult or impossible to recycle (and I am going to throw in here – economically unsustainable to recycle) should be your first priority.

If we are playing with “R” words, we can add “Refuse” – as in refuse to buy items that are packaged in unsustainable ways, and “Rechoose” – as in seek out products and formats that don’t create hard to recycle waste. We have been well trained as a society to think about recycling at the time when we are finished with a product, but we are terrible at thinking about it at the time we purchase something. I suspect our reliance on (even blind faith in) EPR programs was part of this problem. 

Trip Diary 2

In my recent post about the TransLink Trip Diary data release, I talked about how the use of cars in New Westminster is going down. Even as our population grows, the number of people using cars to get around is stable, and the actual number of car trips generated by New West residents on the average day is going down.

I also wrote this does not mean there are fewer cars on the road, or that traffic is getting better, because New Westminster is in the centre of a connected region, and that region is growing. Unfortunately, New Westminster’s decrease in car use is not being seen across the region, and our roads and livability are being  impacted by those trips generated mostly from the south and east of us.

All but three municipalities in the Trip Diary data had an increase in car trips, and the combined number of regional trip increased by more than half a million trips a day between 2011 and 2017. This is only slightly offset by the combined decrease in trips seen in New West, West Van and White Rock:

There are a couple of other ways to look at this data, using percentages instead of raw numbers. If there are 520,000 new car trips across the region, this pie shows the percentage of that total traffic load that is generated by each municipality:

So no surprise Surrey and Vancouver lead the way in new car trips, as they are the largest municipalities, nor is it surprising that 50% of the new trips are generated South of the Fraser, and most trips are generated in areas where the region has spent billions of dollars building new freeway infrastructure and new river crossings.

But what about population growth? The South of Fraser an northeast communities are growing fastest, so it makes sense that their car trips will increase in correlation with this, right? More people = more trips is the meme I challenged last post, and it clearly is not the case for New West, but how true is that across the region? The blue bars here represent the percentage increase in car tips between 2011 and 2017, and the red bars represent the population increases over the same time period (2011 – 2017) from the BC Government stats page:

Note that in almost every municipality, car trip numbers are increasing at a faster rate than population. In Port Moody and North Vancouver District – two communities where the councils are using increased traffic congestion as a reason to slow or halt new housing – actual population did not significantly increase over that 6-year period (the fact they show a slight decrease in population is quirk in how BC Population stats are estimated between census years), yet this did not prevent car trips increasing. The short point:

Car trips and resultant congestion do not correlate with local population changes.

I leave you to speculate about what is happening in White Rock and West Vancouver, two municipalities where population has been stagnant or decreasing for a decade, and neither specifically transit-oriented relative to those of us sprinkled along the Rapid Transit spines, but both seeing much reduced car use. Each has its own tale to tell as West Vancouver had a significant increases in walking and transit use to balance out to about the same number of total trips, while the entire trip count for White Rock across all modes went down significantly. This graph shows the percentage increase or decease in each mode for all Cities, and you can’t help but wonder what people in White Rock are doing at home all the time: 

Also note the latest data was collected not long after the opening of the Evergreen Line, but before the changes that have come with the Mayor’s 10-year Plan investments, which has brought more and more reliable bus service across the region, both in undeserved and overcrowded areas. It is also worth noting that the 2011 data was before the opening of the expanded Port Mann Bridge, and the 2017 data was from the very time when tolls on that bridge were being removed, so the longer term impact on transportation patterns related to toll removal are muted here. Like all surveys, this represents a snapshot in time, and only by collecting this type of data over a longer period can we see the long-term trends our transportation policy is creating.

Council, October 7, 2019

It was annual Council on the Road day at New West Council, when we hold our regular Council Meeting in sunny Queensborough. There were lots of proclamations and delegations, so it is worth watching online! But our regular agenda was fairly light:

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Innovate New West Proposed Work Plan
The City has run a couple of successful “Innovation week” events over the last couple of years. These have brought businesses, institutions, and government together to talk about how we can better foster innovation in public services and better support innovative businesses. As a major part of our Economic Development Strategy, Innovate New West is adapting to better fit the needs of stakeholders and participants. This biggest shift will be breaking up “innovation week” into several events spread throughout the year, which allows more participants to take part in more of the program – it is really hard for small businesses and people running institutes to take several days away from work to attend a week of events. The first will be a one-day Innovation Forum in February or March.

This is a great program, happy to support it!

Proposed 2020 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
This is the schedule for 2020 Council meetings: 24 meetings, including 9 Public Hearings. We will meet two or three times every month, except in July, August, and December, when people are less interested in City Council stuff, but we meet once to keep business moving along. Plan your year accordingly!

Acting Mayor Appointments for November 2019 to December 2020
We also need a Councillor to serve as Acting Mayor every month, in the event the Mayor is not available to sign timely documents, run a meeting, or do any of those other important Mayor-type things. Each Councillor takes two months of acting duty, mine are March and August. Plan your year accordingly!

Recruitment 2019: Advisory Planning Commission Appointment
The Advisory Planning Commission is a committee of volunteers in the city that has a legislative function in planning by providing a review of development projects from a broad community perspective. We have a short vacancy before recruiting for next year, so we asked on the original applicants to step up and fill the role so they can get the business done. Full recruitment for the next APC will start at the end of the year. If you want a say in how the City meets its planning policy guidelines, dust off your resume!

318 Fourth Street: Official Community Plan Amendment to Remove Heritage Conservation Area Protection – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The Heritage Conservation Area in the Queens Park neighbourhood protects older houses that have significant heritage value. Some older houses have been modified enough that there is little heritage value yet, and there is a process through which homeowners can evaluate whether removal from protection is reasonable given their specific situation. This applicant is asking to be removed from protection. Because this is an Official Community Plan Amendment, it will have to go to a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

Major Purchases May 1st to August 31st, 2019
Every 4 months we put out a report of all of the major purchases the City makes. If you bid on a job, or want to know what the City spends your money on, this is the thing.

837 – 841 Twelfth Street: Rezoning and Development Permit for Five Storey Residential Building – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
This is an application to build a 5-storey residential building on the vacant lot on the corner of Twelfth and Dublin. There would be 29 units, all two- or three-bedroom, including 4 ground-level townhouses. This would be the first mutli-family building in New Westminster to be built at Step 4 on the Step Code, making it the most energy efficient residential building ever built in the City.

This will go to Public Hearing on October 28, so I will hold further comment until then.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

2020 Pedestrian Crossing Improvement Program
The City has a Master Transportation Plan that prioritizes the comfort and safety of pedestrians, and one manifestation of this is a budget line item specifically to improve the safety of crosswalks, and a program to prioritize how that money is spent. This report outlines the 2020 program priorities, based on citizen requests, engineering review, and consultation through the City’s transportation advisory committees.

Litter Receptacles Within Public Streetscapes, Parks and Open Spaces
The City is adjusting how street litter bins are being maintained. The biggest problem we have right now is that some of these bins are being overloaded with residential garbage. For some reason, people are choosing to put their household trash in these receptacles, overloading them, creating mess and expense. Short of putting dumpsters on the street, or paying someone to stand beside garbage bins 24/7, it is hard to figure out how to address this.

Staff has removed, moved and down-sized some of these receptacles to see what that does to behavior. Surprisingly, this resulted in less litter on the streets (yes, the City has people who actually track and count litter, along with picking it up), and reduced volume of trash being collected, which presumably means people are taking their trash home or throwing it into a commercial receptacle. This reflects the experience in other cities when a program like this is implemented.

Another interesting and completely unsurprising point out of this: street recycling bins simply don’t work. People put everything and anything in them, and the resultant waste is too contaminated to go to the recycling stream, so it goes to landfill with the rest of the trash.

New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre Update
This is an update on progress with the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre Replacement Project. Last week we dealt with the variances needed given the design, and talked about the energy and GHG efficiency goals of the new building, this is more a holistic update on the project.

Unfortunately, one of the base assumptions about how we were planning this project has been problematic. Since we started serious planning for this project, the federal government has been promising an Infrastructure Grant Program for local governments, the ICIP. We have structured much of this project around making it as fundable as possible under that program, and have a project that hits every checkpoint for ICIP eligibility. We also assumed that ICIP funding would be announced before the 2019 Federal Election, but it was not. When the writ dropped, we still did not know if we were getting an ICIP grant, or how much it would be. That is hampering our ability to advance planning on this project, and every week we delay adds costs to the project. The nature of these grants is that we have to be shovel-ready, but we cannot already be building. So we idle.

But there is work we need to do to reduce the risk and cost related to that idling, and we are at a point where we need to make some decisions about the two-path planning process. Are we going to build the pool that the community consultation asked for (“Base Program”), or are we going to build the much larger facility that the Hyack Swim Club was advocating for (“Enhanced Competition Hosting Facility, or ECHF”)? The larger option adds 18,000 square feet to the building, along with increased energy and staffing costs. Council has, up to now, said we will look at this option once we know how much federal grant money we can count on. As we are now doing some thorough life cycle costing of the facility, we need to provide some clarity to our finance department about how much grant is enough that we can afford to build the ECHF. There is a lot of financial calculus that went into this number, but $22.4 Million is the number that percolated out. We applied for much more than this, but we will not know until November at the earliest what the result will be, and we will have to make some decisions then.

Public Art Advisory Committee Request to Increase Sportsplex Public Art Funds
The PAAC has a bigger idea for public art in the space between the new Sportplex and the Skate Park, and they don’t think this vision will fit within the available budget, so they are asking for more. Note – they are not asking for new money here, just drawing more from the already established Public Art Reserve Funds – more spent here means less spent elsewhere on Public Art. Council gave them that authority.

331 Richmond Street (Richard McBride School): Development Variance Permit for New Elementary School – Consideration of Notice of Opportunity to be Heard
It looks like they were serious when they said they are building a new school to replace Richard McBride. Much like last week’s discussion of the Canada Games Pool replacement, this project will require some variances because of the uniqueness of the building doesn’t strictly fit our Zoning Bylaw.

The new, 430-student school will be 44,000 square feet, and the site has some obvious challenges with a huge grade difference across the lot and the need to build a school on a site while the old school still operates. The variances are for building height (3.6 feet taller than the allowed 30 feet), parking (56 spaces including pick-up/drop-off, where the Bylaw wants 62), sign bylaw (the undercanopy sign much larger than allowed for really wonky reasons), the presence of an on-site retaining wall required because of the grades, and a reduction in some off-site improvement needs.

This will go to a Public Opportunity to be heard on October 28, c’mon out and tell us what you think!

Council Efficiencies – Proposed Changes to the Council Procedure Bylaw
This is a follow-up report to a discussion we had earlier this year after a couple of pretty long council meetings, and this was a lengthy discussion, but messing with the way council procedures work is an important topic, so it was worth having the chat.

This is less about about trying to make Council meetings shorter, and more about trying to make them more efficient and our discussion more productive. Council time is valuable time, for the public who come to see these meetings, and for the staff who take so much of their time to be here. They deserve to not have their time wasted. And as a Councillor, I don’t think we make our best decisions at 10:30pm after a 13 hour day of meetings.

I like the recommendation that we have 5 minutes limit to councilors – as someone who does sometimes go off on tangents and talk more than I should, I think if you cannot make your point in 5 minutes, it shows a lack of preparation and you are wasting everyone’s time. This will force us to be clearer and more concise, to everyone’s benefit.

Honestly, I don’t think Public Delegations are the major problem, at least at most meetings when we have two or three. I would have agreed to reducing public delegations from 5 minutes to 3 minutes if we have more than, say, 20 people sign up, mostly so delegate #25 doesn’t have to wait two hours to get their chance to talk, but it didn’t look like that idea was well supported at council and the argument the it would cause problems for people preparing statements was a good one. In the end, Council agreed that we should limit the Public Delegation period to 1.5 hours, but can agree to extend this time limit in the event a significant community conversation is happening. This would only apply to public delegation, NOT to Public Hearings or Opportunities to be Heard.

This will come back to Council as a new Procedures Bylaw, so there will be some more talk about it.

Recruitment 2020: Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) Appointments
The Youth Advisory committee is one that assigns members on a different cycle than the others in order to align better with the school season. The appointments are named!


The following Bylaw was adopted:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (616 – 640 Sixth Street) Bylaw No. 7997, 2019
This zoning amendment permits the development of a high-rise with a mix of market condo and market rental units on the corner of Sixth Street and Princess. It was given a Public Hearing back in June, and now that some of the approval conditions have been completed, it can move ahead.


Finally, we had one piece of New Business rising from the Public Delegation period and a piece of correspondence we received:

Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society email dated August 19,2019 regarding the Komagata Maru
Councilor Das moved the following:
THAT city staff do a report on the connection of New Westminster and the Komagata Maru incident. In particular, the report should provide documentation of the support the New Westminster South Asian community offered to the passengers of the Komagata Maru.

There is a call for the City of New Westminster to mark the role some of its citizens played in this historic incident. This motion will allow Staff to put some work in to putting those events into a local context, and will hopefully inform whether some formal marking is appropriate. Council moved to support this

And that was all for the Queensborough edition 2019. See you after the Thanksgiving break!

Trip Diary

The venn diagram overlap of transportation geeks and data geeks shines brightest when Trip Diary numbers are released. So despite the zillion other things I have to do, I sat down for some Excel Spreadsheet fun this weekend to look at what the Trip Diary data release tells us about New Westminster.

The Translink Trip Diary is a survey-based analysis of how people in Greater Vancouver get around. Unlike the Canada Census that asks simply “How do you usually get to work?” and “How long does that take you?”, the Trip Diary digs down into details about how people get around. What types of trips do they take, where do they go, how far, and how often? The difference matters because many people, especially those who use active transportation modes, use more than one way to get to work and travel for non-commuting reasons as well. I have two jobs, one I either walk or cycle to, the other I either cycle or ride transit (after a 5-minute walk on one end). My “usual” could be transit or cycling or walking, depending on the week. I usually walk to shopping, but sometimes drive. I sometimes drive to recreation, sometimes I bike or walk. For most of us living in a modern urban area, our modes are mixed, and understanding that mix is more important to how we plan our transportation system than the simplistic census question.

I’m going to skip over some of the regional stuff (maybe a later post when I find time because there is some fascinating data in here) to concentrate on New Westminster. All of the numbers below that I refer to as “New Westminster trips” are trips by people who call New West their city of residence – whether their trips start and/or end in New West or elsewhere in the region, every trip made by a New West resident is considered a New West trip.

The last Trip Diary provided data from 2011, and at the time, New West was doing OK as far as “mode share”, which is transportation geek speak for “what percentage of people are travelling by X mode.”

As might be expected for a compact city with 5 Skytrain stations, New West has high transit mode share at 17% of all trips. In 2011 we used transit at a higher rate per trip than any other City in the Lower Mainland except the City of Vancouver itself (at 20%). We also had higher walking mode share than most cities (11% of all trips, which is only behind Vancouver, North Van City and White Rock). Our 2011 cycling mode share was a dismal 0.4%, which was, even more dismally, close to the regional average. Add these up, and we had one of the lowest automobile mode shares in the region. 59% of trips were drivers, 13% were passengers, totalling 72% of trips, which was lowest in the region except (natch) Vancouver. Contrast that with the traffic we need to deal with and the amount of space we have given over to that traffic. But more on that later.

The 2017 Trip Diary data shows how our mode share has shifted over a 6-year span:

As you can see, the shift is subtle, but in a positive direction if you hate traffic. Our transit rode share went up to 20% and is now the highest in the region (Vancouver’s dropped a bit to 18%) New Westminster is now the City in BC with the highest transit mode share! Our walk share went up to 15% and is still 4th in the region, and our bike mode share doubled from dismal to still pretty bad. Or car mode share, however, dropped from 72% of all trips to 64.5%, and “passengers” went up a little bit in share, suggesting that single occupancy vehicle trips went down. Going from 59% to 51% of driving trips in 6 years is (a 14% decrease) is a really positive sign for the livability of our community.

All of those numbers are percentages of trips, but they mask that New Westminster is a growing city. Based on BC Government population estimates (BC Gov’t Local Government Statistics Schedule 201), our population went from 67,880 to 73,928 over that 6-year span, an 8.9% population increase. The trip diary raw numbers show that our number of trips went up at a higher rate: a 12% increase from 194,000 individual trips on the average day to 217,000 trips. We are moving around more. And this is where things get interesting:

With a modest increase in cycling (around 1,000), and significant increases in walk trips (11,000) and transit trips (10,000), there was no increase in trips taken by car – the increase in passengers almost exactly offset the reduced trips by drivers. I need to emphasize this, in bold, italics and in colour, because this is the big story in all of these numbers:

All of the new trips taken by New Westminster residents, as our population grew by 8.9% and our travelling around grew by 12%, resulted in no increase in car use by residents of the City. All of the extra trips were counted as transit, walking, or cycling. Simply put, this logical connection perpetuated by people who oppose the transit-oriented development model, is not supported by the data:

Admittedly, this does not necessarily mean traffic is getting better; That a smaller proportion of people are driving and that driving is becoming less convenient, are not contradictory ideas. Other parts of the region have not seen the same shift, and growth to the south and east of us especially is increasing demand on our local roads. This also means there are more pedestrians and cyclists about, so crosswalks are fuller and taking more time to clear, meaning some tiny amount of through-capacity from cars is lost to accommodate the mode shift and keep vulnerable road users safe. The City shifting resources to serve the growing proportion of our residents that don’t rely on a car every day also makes sense from a planning principle. If I am car-reliant (and some in our City definitely are) I can rest assured that a huge proportion of our public land space is still dedicated to moving and storing cars, and a large portion of our budget to accommodating the expectations of drivers.

But the writing is on the wall, and we need to continue to adapt our practices and resources to reflect the success that is starting to show in our regional transportation numbers.

Climate Strike

I don’t usually do community announcements at the end of Council meetings, but I made an exception this week (I promise not to make it a practice). But I could not let the meeting pass without calling extra attention to the events of last Friday.

Friday was the last resolution session at UBCM (yes, I will report out on that in the next little while). Members New Westminster council were at this annual conference of local governments from across the province, and we helped move resolutions that emphasized the urgent need for climate action. Some, like the Resolution asking the UBCM to endorse a Call to Action on the Climate Emergency passed, some like the call to hold fossil fuel industries legally responsible for the cost of climate change adaptation in our Cities, failed. Thanks to CBC Reporter Justin McElroy, there is a scorecard of the resolutions around climate:
Green surrounds the “passed” resolutions, Red is “failed”, purple is “withdrawn”.

There was significant debate on the floor on these climate action resolutions. Some arguing we need to slow down and be cautious, we cannot risk “investor confidence” or we need to show more respect for “resource communities”. Such is the nature of democratic debate, good points were made, hyperbole was engaged, passions were expressed:

Then, we went outside. And some youth were there to talk to the media about the Climate Strike that was about to start a few km up the road. Then there were 100,000+ people on the street, lead by inspiring youth from across the region, calling on politicians and other leaders to stop pretending a lack of climate action is an example of caution – call it what it is – an act of dereliction.

Some of us on council joined that Climate Strike, and I think we all went to show support – to be allies. But I was reminded time and again during the event that this strike, this protest, was directed at me. Those signs, those chants, the anger, were directed at me, and at my fellow Councillors, and the other delegates at UBCM, and at the generation to which I belong who have known about this issue, but failed to act. We continue to fail to deliver the change needed to assure these students have a future as good as our present.

Recognizing that hit me hard. And I am still processing it.

So I had to speak at Council on Monday to tell them that I heard them.

And in every way, this Monday – from the way we talked about our capital budget in the afternoon workshop to the renewed call for fossil fuel divestment to my vote about preserving a heritage house 300m from a Sky Train station – this Monday is different because of what happened on Friday.

Shit like this needs to be stopped. There is no place in a Climate Emergency mandate for expanding freeways. The myth of congestion relief through building traffic lanes is abhorrent in this context, and we have to stop lying to people about it.

No more business as usual as a reason not to move forward. No more incremental-until-meaningless actions. I can’t continue to compartmentalize climate action and climate justice in this work. And I won’t.

Council – Sept 30, 2019

Back at Council after our UBCM break. I have some writing to do about that whole thing, but need to get through this business first. Out meeting agenda was not too crazy long, but we got into some pretty meaty discussions on some policy issues that brought us to some split votes. We started with Public Hearings on three projects:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (34 South Dyke Road) No. 8087, 2019 and Development Variance Permit DVP00635 for 34 South Dyke Road
This project would see 16 townhouses built on a vacant lot on South Dike Road, including a swap of some lands to make the lot work better while providing the waterfront land for the City to enhance the dike, and continue the waterfront parks sue that is the big vision for that part of Queensborough.

There are a few variances needed here. The setback to the north is reduced 3 feet and the west side by a foot and a half. The Advisory Planning Commission, Design Panel and Residents’ Association all expressed support for the proposal. We received no written correspondence, and no-one came to speak to the Public Hearing.

Council moved to support the DVP and gave the Bylaw third reading.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (1935 Eighth Avenue) Bylaw No. 7846, 2019 and Heritage Designation (1935 Eighth Avenue) Bylaw No. 7847, 2019
This application is to subdivide a largish lot on the corner of 20th Street and 8th Ave in the West End in exchange for giving permanent protection to the 1928 single family house on the corner. There would be some variances required: the resultant lots would be 66% and 50% of minimum size, with Floor Space Ratios 18% and 6% above the maximum. allowed. The Community Heritage Commission and Advisory Planning Commission reviewed and approved of the project.

I actually voted against this proposal. The idea that we are permanently preserving single family homes on the intersection of two arterial roads less than 5 minutes walking from a SkyTrain station in 2019 rubs me the wrong way. This is not the vision of sustainable, transit oriented development that I think of in the City. Unfortunately, our OCP leads applicants down this path – in that this type of preservation is exactly what our existing policy framework is encouraging, and the landowner here is perhaps being treated unfairly when I speak against the proposal at this late stage, but I could not support it.

We received no written submissions and no-one came to speak to the application at Public Hearing. Council voted to support the the project, and gave the Bylaws Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Cannabis Retail Location – 805 Boyd Street) No. 8140, 2019
The Government of BC wants to open a government cannabis store in Queensborough Landing. We have now approved 3 private cannabis store applications, have two more wading through the provincial security check process, and this would be the first government store approved.

This process has taken longer than most would like, including the City and the Province. At the UBCM meeting last week Premier Horgan admitted frustration that BC was not able to get their various regulatory changes and approvals done faster, but such is the nature of bringing in comprehensive changes. We received a single written submission in support, and two people came to speak in favour of the application. Council moved to support the Zoning Amendment, and gave it Third Reading and Adoption with only a single “high” joke. I’m proud of us for that.


We then had a single Opportunity to be Heard:

Development Variance Permit DVP00663 for 65 East Sixth Avenue (New
Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre)
The City itself has to go through formalizing the variances for the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre replacement project, now that we have some certainty about the design. Though we are still not sure we will have the financial capacity to build the much larger facility that the competitive swimming community asked for, we are using that as the basis for our variances at this time.

The list of variances is not that long considering the uniqueness of the building. It includes building height (54 feet where only 30 feet is permitted), parking (We only have space for 422 cars, the zoning bylaw recommends 526), and the design of bicycle parking (we are building almost twice the requirement, but varying the design requirements to make it more appropriate for the building design). We had one letter of support and one member of the public came to express support for the reduced car parking and ample cycling space. Council moved to give ourselves these variances.


The following item was Moved on Consent:

Split Assessment through New Commercial Assessment Class
The way property taxes are calculated in BC is based on the assessed value of the property. The value of a property is based on “highest and best use”, not necessarily the current use, so in growing commercial areas the assessed value of even low-cost commercial lease property can be really high, with consequent impact on property taxes. New Westminster, like every other City in the lower mainland charges a much higher rate in commercial property taxes than we do on residential taxes. Businesses pay 3.5x as much property tax per $1,000 than residents do. And it is almost always the lease of the building – the small business in the building – that pays these property taxes, not the owner of the building. So small, independent business commonly cannot afford these triple-net leases, which is part of the reason you see more chain stores and national brands in new lease spaces. This is complicated by modern mixed-use zoning practices where it can be hard to separate residential value from commercial value in the same developable lot.

This is not a New West only problem, and the Province has been looking at creative ways to shift our property tax regulations to allow Cities to better support small independent businesses, and have received recommendations from an Intergovernmental Working Group on this. New Westminster’s BIAs have sent us a letter suggesting their support for these recommendations.

One of them is to separate the current use and “developable value” parts of the assessment, and charge a different tax on the latter which the city could set at anything from zero to a percentage under the full tax rate.

This is interesting, but I need to emphasize that any reduction in taxes to one property type will result in an increase in taxes to other property types. We can’t give businesses a property tax break without raising residential property taxes (except, of course by doing city-wide service reductions). The business community asking for tax reductions must be put into this context. The province has not made the regulatory changes yet, and this idea will have to get bounced off of the public a bit, and will need some financial analysis. Interesting, but not a slam dunk.


The rest of the items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre – Sustainability
Implementation and Certification Progress

A significant part in our City’s commitment to the Climate Emergency declaration is assuring the replacement of our largest corporate GHG point source is with as low-carbon a building as possible. We are pushing the envelope a bit here, and after some significant design and energy modelling work, it looks like we can do what no-one has yet done – build a 100,000+ square foot aquatic centre that meets the Canada Green Building Council “Zero Carbon Building” standard. That is pretty exciting.

The building will use carbon-free energy for all heating and cooling, for water treatment, air management and auxiliary energy needs. We are also hoping to add photovoltaics to the roof to produce 358kW of electricity – effectively tripling the City’s current Solar Garden photovoltaic capacity. This marks a major shift in how we build buildings, and will be a model for recreation centres in Canada.

Brewery District (Wesgroup Project): Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
This is another application to do utility works at night, as has been a typical practice if daytime work would be expected to add too much road disruption or traffic chaos. Council actually had a long discussion about this, following some recent projects where we heard from residents not happy to be kept up at night by construction. I have started re-thinking these in my own voting, and am going to prioritize the peaceful sleep and livability of residents over the need for drivers to not be delayed while driving through New West. I suspect we will get grief for this, but Council in a split vote denied the application, meaning the applicant will need to adjust their works to change the night use schedule, or will need to do the work during the day.

Pop-Up Recycling Events
This is a report that updates on changes in our recycling systems in the City. As previously reported, the current recycling centre near Canada Games Pool will be inaccessible due to construction staging once the pool replacement project starts, so staff is looking at different ideas in how to use this as an opportunity to shift how we collect some of the harder-to-recycle materials that can’t go in our curbside collection system, like soft plastic and Styrofoam. At the same time, we can educate the community on the myriad of recycling options that already exist in New Westminster . Part of this strategy will be “pop up” recycling events on City lands in 2020 – where we can also have reuse and repair opportunities, with an emphasis on education of options, and to see what works. Far from “abandoning recycling”, the City is putting a bigger emphasis on the first two Rs (reduce and reuse) and will adapt our recycling options to fit the realities of the shifting recycling materials markets.

Permissive Property Tax Exempt Properties – Review of Application Results
We give permissive property tax exemptions to some charitable organizations and community service agencies. These are “permissive”, because they are not required by provincial law like the regulatory exemptions given to Churches, but are up to Council to approve or not. Although there are a number of long-established recipients of permissive exemptions, the City has long had a practice of not awarding new ones. This is our annual report on the Bylaw we need to update every year listing the permissive exemptions.

Recently, however, there have been two significant expansions of Private Schools in the City, and we are still managing them as “permissive” exemptions. I have asked Council to have a review of policy around permissive exemptions for tuition-collecting private schools in the City.

Investment Report to August 31, 2019
We have about $191 Million in the bank in various reserve funds. Most is not cash we can spend, and it is not (as some may allege) in a vault at City Hall for us to roll around in. It is mostly in reserve funds that are earmarked for specific projects, like the Canada Games Pool replacement, or DCC funds set aside from development charges to pay for things like sewer and water and road upgrades those developments will cause us to build. Before we get all excited about that big number, a huge chunk of this is going to get spent over the next three years as we realize our aggressive capital program. Nonetheless, so far in this fiscal year we have made about $2.8Million on these investments.

We talked a few years ago about divesting our funds from fossil fuel industries, and took a resolution to UBCM a few years ago. The Municipal Finance Authority has net been excited about a fossil fuel divestment fund, though they have been tossing around an “ethical” fund, which is not really the same thing. That said, we have declared a climate emergency, and this is a new Council since the last time I kicked at this can, so I moved the following:

That staff report back to Council before the start of next financial year to determine what options for fossil fuel divestment are available to us, and outlining the process and implications of we moved our funds away from the MFA in the event they cannot provide a fossil-fuel free investment product to the City. This was supported by Council.


We then adopted the following Bylaws</b:

Five-Year Financial Plan (2019-2023) Amendment Bylaw No. 8141,
2019
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that updates our Financial Plan to reflect recent changes in revenue projections and capital spending was adopted by Council.

Housing Agreement Bylaw (616-640 Sixth Street) No. 8131, 2019
This Bylaw that secures market-rental tenure for a new development in the Uptown that was approved back in the summer was Adopted by Council. Despite the gloom and doom predicted by the development community when the City took stronger measures to prevent renovictions, investors are still building new and much-needed rental stock in New Westminster.

And that was the work of the day

Ask Pat: The CVG Gap

Zack asks—

When will there be a proper cycling connection between Cumberland and Brunette along E Columbia? Almost everyone rides on the sidewalk there.

I have no idea.

I’m not happy about that answer, that piece of terrible planning turned into infrastructure failure is one of the biggest active transportation pet peeves I have in the City. Now, I could blow smoke up your ass and say we are working on it, but I don’t actually think we are. And to understand why not is to understand what is currently frustrating me most about my job.

The Central Valley Greenway is a great piece of regional transportation infrastructure. After only the BC Parkway (which has its own frustrations), the CVG is the best integrated inter-community cycling and active transportation route in Greater Vancouver. Tracing pretty much the flattest and most direct route between Downtown Vancouver and the triple-point of Burnaby New West and Coquitlam, with a significant side-spur connecting to Downtown New West, the CVG is 24 km of relatively safe, pretty comfortable and pretty attractive cycling infrastructure opened to some fanfare in 2009.

It is definitely not perfect, and much of it falls far short of what we would consider “All Ages and Abilities” AAA bike routes. That in Burnaby they built a really great multi-use overpass at Winston and Sperling to cross the road and railroad tracks almost makes be forgive the adjacent 4 km where the route is a too-narrow, poorly-maintained and debris-strewn paint-demarked lane adjacent to a truck route where 4+ m lane widths assure the 50km/h speed limit is treated as a minimum. But I’m not here to complain about Burnaby, I’m here to complain about New Westminster.

At the time of the CVG opening in 2009, it was noted that some parts had “interim” treatments, and would be brought up to proper design in the near future. One of those is the section you mention, where the separated Multi Use Path (“MUP”) along East Columbia simply runs out of road room, and for 150m, cyclists are either expected to share sidewalk space with pedestrians (which is actually legal in this space, but that’s another Ask Pat) on a 6 foot wide sidewalk immediately adjacent to heavy truck traffic coming off on Brunette, or take a 360-m detour up a steep (13% grade!) hill to Sapper Street, then back down an equally steep hill a block later. It is a fudge, but tolerable as a temporary measure as we get this great $24 Million piece of region-defining infrastructure completed.

A decade later, the fudge is still there, and it is way less tolerable.

I have asked about this for pretty much a decade, and the answer seems to be that this fudge will get fixed when the intersection of Columbia and Brunette gets fixed. If you look at the traffic plan for Sapperton and the “Great Streets” section of our master transportation plan, you see that there is some notion that the Brunette/East Columbia intersection will work better if Brunette is made the through-route, and East Columbia is turned into a light-controlled T-intersection. This vision appears at times when discussing Braid and Brunette changes, or potential “solutions” to the United Braid Extension conundrum, or dreams of re-aligning the Brunette offramp from Highway 1 or the building of 6- or 8-lane Pattullo Bridges. When one or all of these things happens (so goes the story) then re-aligning this intersection will be an important part of “keeping things moving”, and then we will have the money/excuse/desire to fix the fudge in the CVG.

But none of those things have happened over the last decade, and there is really no sign that any of them are going to happen any time soon. There certainly isn’t any money in the City’s Capital plan to do this work, no senior government is offering money to do this work, and there is very little political will by anyone (for good reason) to spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars shifting choke points for drivers around in New West around. So all this to say my answer to your first question is No, there is no foreseeable timeline to fix this piece of the CVG.

But my frustration is this being just one more example of how the City of New Westminster is has still not adopted the principles of our Master Transportation Plan and it’s clear prioritization of active modes. This is still not the culture of the organization. If the improvement of this keystone regional active mode route is contingent on us spending 10x the amount it would cost on some “getting cars moving” project that we can slip this in with, it is clear where our priories lie. As long as making an active transportation route work is still accessory to motordom, we are failing our own vision.

Climate Emergency

One of the big topics we discussed at Council last week was a report from staff entitled “Response to Climate Emergency”. This policy-rich, wonky, but still preliminary report had its profile raised by a variety of delegates coming to speak to Council, urging aggressive climate action. That many of the delegates represented generations of people who will be around and most impacted by the climate crisis was not lost to anyone in the room.

If you want to read the report, it is here (because of the way our Council agendas work, you need to scroll down to page 81 of that big, ugly agenda package). I want to summarize some of what is in there, and talk a little about what I see as the risks and opportunities ahead. When we declared a Climate Emergency, we were asking our staff to show us the tools we could apply if we want to act like it is an emergency and shift our emissions towards the Paris targets. Now it is up to Council to give them the authorization and resources to use those tools.

When New Westminster (or any local government) talks about greenhouse gas emissions, we talk about two types of emissions. “Corporate” emissions are those created by the City of New Westminster as a corporation – the diesel in our garbage trucks, the gasoline in our police cars, and the fossil gas used to heat water in the Canada Games Pool or City Hall. This is managed through a Corporate Energy and Emissions Reduction Strategy or CEERS. For the sake of shorthand, that is currently about 4,000 Tonnes (CO2equivilent) per year. “Community” emissions are all of the other emissions created in our community – the gas you burn in your car, the gas you use to heat your house, the emissions from the garbage that you and your neighbors toss out, etc. These are managed through a Community Energy and Emissions Plan or CEEP. And again in shorthand they amount to more than 200,000 Tonnes (CO2equivelent) per year.

When Council supported the Climate Emergency resolution, it included the targets we want to hit for emissions reductions to align with the commitments that Canada made in Paris, and with the global objective of keeping anthropogenic climate change under 1.5C. This means reducing our emissions by 45% by 2030, 60% by 2040, and 100% by 2050. These targets are for both our Corporate and Community emissions.

Clearly, the City has more control over its corporate emissions. The two biggest changes will be in re-imagining our fleet and renovating our buildings. We can accelerate the shift to low- and zero-emission vehicles as technology advances. Passenger vehicles are easy, but electric backhoes are an emergent technology, and the various energy demands of fire trucks are probably going to require some form of low-carbon liquid fuels for some time. The limits on us here are both the significant up-front capital cost of cutting-edge low-emission technology, and the ability to build charging infrastructure. Rapidly adopting low- and zero-carbon building standards for our new buildings (including the replacement for the Canada Games Pool) will be vital here, but retro-fitting some of our older building stock is something that needs to be approached in consideration of the life cycles of the buildings – when do we renovate and when do we replace?

Addressing these big two aggressively will allow us some time to deal with the category of “others”. This work will require us to challenge some service delivery assumptions through an emissions and climate justice lens. Are the aesthetic values of our (admittedly spectacular) annual gardens and groomed green grass lawns something we can continue to afford, or will we move to more perennial, native and xeriscaped natural areas? How will we provide emergency power to flood control pumps without diesel generators? Can we plant enough trees to offset embedded carbon in our concrete sidewalks?

Those longer-term details aside, corporate emissions are mostly fleet and buildings, where the only thing slowing progress is our willingness to commit budget to it, and the public tolerance for tax increases or debt spending in the short term to save money in the long term.

Community emissions are a much harder nut to crack. Part of this is because the measurement of community emissions, by their diffuse nature, are more difficult. Another part is that a local government has no legal authority to (for example) start taking away Major Road Network capacity for cars and trucks, or to regulate the type of fuel regional delivery vehicles use.

We do have a lot of control over how new buildings are built, through powers given by the Provincial “Step Code” provisions in the Building Code. A City can require that more energy efficient building be built, recognizing that this may somewhat increase the upfront cost of construction. We can also relax the energy efficiency part in exchange for requiring that space and water heating and cooking appliances be zero carbon, which may actually offset the cost increase and still achieve the emissions reductions goals. The retrofit of existing buildings will rely somewhat on Provincial and Federal incentives (that pretty much every political party is promising this election), but we may want to look at the City of Vancouver model and ask ourselves at what point should we regulate that no more new fossil gas appliances are allowed?

Shifting our transportation realm will be the hard one. The future of personal mobility is clearly electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and shared vehicles. Somehow the Techno-optimists selling this dream fail to see what those words add up to: clean, reliable public transit. Yes, we are going to have to look at electrification of our private vehicle fleets, and getting chargers for electric vehicles into existing multi-family buildings is an economic and logistical barrier to complete adoption, but ultimately we need to reduce the number of motorized private vehicles moving through our City, because that is the only way we can make the use of alternatives safer, more comfortable, and more efficient.

Denser housing, more green spaces, better waste management built on the foundation of reducing wasteful products, and distributed energy systems linked by a smarter electricity grid – these are things we can build in the City that will get us to near-zero carbon. We can layer on resiliency of our systems and food security decoupled from fossil-fuel powered transglobal supply chains, but that is another couple of blog posts. If you are not getting the hint here, we are talking about transforming much of how we live our lives, because how we have lived our lives up to now is how we ended up in this emergency despite decades of seeing it coming.

The barrier to community emissions reductions is less about money and more about community drive / tolerance for change. Every time we (for example) take away 5 parking spots on 8th Street to provide a transit queue-jumping lane, it will be described by automobile reliant neighbours as the greatest indignity this Council ever imposed on residents. Building a separated bike lane network so our residents can safely and securely use emerging zero-carbon transportation technology like e-assist bikes and electric scooters will be vilified as causing “traffic chaos”, and opponents will somehow forget that “traffic chaos” has been the operating mode of New Westminster roads for 50+ years.

The questions will be: Do we have the political will to do what must be done? Will our residents and businesses, who overwhelmingly believe that climate action is necessary, be there to support the actions that may cause them some personal inconvenience, or challenge their assumptions about how their current practice impacts the community’s emissions profile?

The delegates who came to Council asked us to act, and I threw it back at them: they need to act. As helpful as constant reminders of the need to do this work are, we need to bring the rest of the community on board as well. We passed the Climate Emergency declaration, and now we have a toolbox we are ready to open. To some in our community still mired in denial, that toolbox looks like the Ark of the Covenant from the first Indiana Jones movie. How will we shift that perception?

Shit is about to get real. We need climate champions in this community to turn their attention towards educating and motivating their neighbours – the residents, business and voters of this community – that these actions are necessary and good. Political courage only takes us to the next election, real leadership needs to come from the community. Let’s get to work.