Final Update – AVICC Weekend Live Blog – City Brings Three Resolutions

Initial Post 9AM Friday

As I did with the UBCM Conference in the Fall, I am going to be live blogging my experience as much as possible during this weekend’s Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities conference being held in Nanaimo.

If you’re wondering what the AVICC is, it is an organization to which all the local municipalities and regional districts on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast belong (and unique to the ACRD, also treaty First Nations!).  It is a place where delegates (councillors, mayors and regional directors) can learn, network, and most importantly debate and pass resolution on topics of interest and concern in their communities that would like to have support from other communities for as they bring them forward to senior levels of Government.  It also is tied to the Union of BC Municipalities so that issues that come to the regional associations like AVICC go to that larger body to get further support from the communities around the province as a whole and thus the hear of the Government in Victoria.

Here is the program (you can download the full package from the AVICC website linked above).

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All of City Council will be at the AVICC for at least part of the time as some councillors and the Mayor have other important commitments they will be attending to in Port Alberni like the Where is Here event on Saturday (go participate!).

The City of Port Alberni will be bringing forward 3 resolutions to the convention floor on Saturday: One (R3) to get the AVICC to use its lobbying power to urge the Federal Government to release the funding for the Island Railway; One (R5) for the AVICC to petition the Vancouver Island Regional Library Board to take note and address the constant and significant increases in funding demanded by it from small communities like Port Alberni; and one (R27) for the AVICC to lobby the Provincial Government to enact stricter regulations on forest companies for slash burnings in community air-sheds;

Here are all of the resolutions, not including any possible emergency/late resolutions from the floor. There are a few!

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I’ve included the resolutions that the City of Port Alberni is bringing forward in full below.  That will be the end of this initial post.  I will post updates as the day and weekend moves along.  My day will begin at the Nanaimo Train station for the Island Corridor Foundation’s 130th Anniversary celebration and train ride where there may be some interesting news.  I’ll post pictures of course!

 

R3: ISLAND CORRIDOR FOUNDATION FEDERAL FUNDING

WHEREAS the Esquimalt & Nanaimo (E&N) Railway corridor remains a critical transportation asset for the current and future needs of the people and economy of Vancouver Island;

AND WHEREAS the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) passed a resolution urging action in 2012 and further delay in repairs to the corridor jeopardizes its viability;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AVICC petition the Government of Canada to approve and release the $7.5 million for capital works on the Victoria to Courtenay rail line in order for work to begin as soon as possible and ensure the future of rail based freight and passenger transportation between Victoria, Courtenay and Port Alberni.

BACKGROUND MEMO
ISLAND CORRIDOR FOUNDATION FEDERAL FUNDING

The Esquimalt and Nanaimo (E&N) Railway corridor was built in the late 1800s and extends from Victoria to Courtenay and inland from Parksville to Port Alberni. The railway was acquired by the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) after Canadian Pacific and Rail America donated their portions of the line to the ICF in 2006.

Since its inception, the ICF has been pursuing the revival of rail service on Vancouver Island. Passenger service had been suspended because of safety concerns due to poor track conditions along the rail line however, rail freight continues to operate between Nanaimo and south Duncan.

In 2012 the federal and provincial governments jointly committed approximately $15 million to the restoration of the rail line with the intention of making the corridor safe again for passenger service. This included a $500,000 bridge engineering study supported by the provincial government.

With the total project estimated at approximately $20.4 million, ICF secured the remaining funding through agreements with Island regional districts, Via Rail, Southern Railway of Vancouver Island (SVI), and ICF’s own source funds.

In July of 2015 the province affirmed their commitment to provide $7.5 million to the ICF for the project. However, the transfer of funds is contingent on confirmation that the $7.5 million in federal funding is in place and, through a tendering process, that the upgrade work can be completed within the $20.4 million budget.

With the change in government following the October 2015 federal election, the Island Corridor Foundation is now seeking an affirmation of the previous federal commitment for $7.5 million in order to develop and issue a tender for the necessary upgrades required on the rail line.

This resolution seeks to ensure the future of rail based freight and passenger transportation between Victoria, Courtenay and Port Alberni by petitioning the federal government to release the committed funding for the project.

R5 VANCOUVER ISLAND REGIONAL LIBRARY (VIRL) COSTS

WHEREAS the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) is a much valued cooperative regional library system that serves over 400,000 people on Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii and the Central Coast and has a member board comprising thirty-eight representative local governments;

AND WHEREAS many local governments are struggling to fund significant annual rate increases imposed to levies:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AVICC petition the Vancouver Island Regional Library to fully consider the ability of local governments to continue to pay for rate increases that impose an increased burden on the already-strained municipal property tax base.

BACKGROUND MEMO
VANCOUVER ISLAND REGIONAL LIBRARY COSTS

The Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) was established in 1936 and today serves over 430,000 people on Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii and the Central Coast (Bella Coola). VIRL is the fifth largest regional library system in British Columbia, operating 39 branch libraries, an eLibrary and Books-by-Mail service.

Library services are recognized generally as a fundamental public service that act as a focal point for literacy and digital literacy and provide universal access to knowledge in the communities they serve.

The cooperative regional library model utilized by the VIRL is a common approach for communities in rural and remote areas to provide standard library services at an efficient cost. This type of arrangement is established by the provincial Library Act, Part 3, that outlines the powers, duties, governance and financial arrangements for regional library districts.

Over the past five years the VIRL has undertaken significant work with respect to facility replacement/expansion and maintenance to meet set service model guidelines. These are articulated in the VIRL Facilities Master Plan which outlines a long-term strategy for these improvements. While others factors are acknowledged, facility improvements and maintenance appear to be the main drivers behind substantial increases to member levies. A review of levies from the past four years shows increases of 5.22%, 6.94%, 5.95% and 6.22%. Looking forward, the recently released 2016-2020 Financial Plan projects an approximate 19% increase over the next five years.

The rationale for these increases has been publicized as a sustainability initiative to meet set service standards in diverse and rapidly changing communities. Local governments are very familiar with these challenges, made even more complex by the provision of a wide spectrum of services including: policing, public works, recreation, garbage collection, fire protection, bylaw enforcement and water and sewer provision. Meeting optimum service standards across all of these operations and programs is desired but budgetary constraints must be considered carefully.

The downloading of services from senior governments and reduced funding for critical infrastructure renewal have forced municipalities to in many cases raise increased funds through property taxation. Taxpayers have expressed significant concern regarding increases and challenged local governments to find new ways of funding additional expenditures. With local government levies now forming the bulk of library revenues, this resolution seeks to share this challenge with VIRL to ensure they fully consider the ability of member local governments to pay for these rate increases.

R27 LIMIT OR BAN BURNING ON FOREST LANDS IN COMMUNITY AIRSHEDS

WHEREAS data from the BC Ministries of Environment and Health indicate that seasonal air quality concerns from outdoor wood burning combined with common air ‘inversion’ events greatly impact the health of residents, and noting that municipalities and regional districts have taken strong measures to limit or ban outdoor burning by residents;

AND WHEREAS the BC Wildfire Act and Environmental Management Act permit the burning of woody debris (“slash”) from forestry operations on Private and Crown land within community air-sheds that often contribute to poor seasonal air quality;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities petition the BC Ministry of Environment to bring forward new regulations to further limit or ban the burning of wood debris piles on private and crown forest lands within community air-sheds in order to ensure communities and industry

are synchronized in working toward the same goal of a safe and healthy environment for all.

BACKGROUND MEMO
LIMIT OR BAN BURNING ON FOREST LANDS IN COMMUNITY AIRSHEDS

The burning of wood debris piles, or ‘slash’, generated by forestry-related activities is a management tool utilized by forestry companies to abate fire hazards and dispose of waste. This practice is regulated through the Wildfire Act and Regulation, the Environmental Management Act’s Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation (OBSCR), or through permits, approvals and solid waste management plans.

Due to the increasing scientific understanding of the health and environmental impacts of wood smoke, slash and other open burning is now widely perceived as an undesirable activity by the general public. In response, many local governments have enacted bylaws to regulate open burning within their jurisdictions to address residential and backyard burning, as well as open burning from other activities.

The mountainous terrain of British Columbia and the common location of communities along valley bottoms create air quality challenges from both air inversions and periods of stagnant air. While it is acknowledged that there are a number of sources of air emissions, communities with nearby forestry operations are acutely aware of the impacts from wood debris pile burning. This is particularly the case for a number of regions on Vancouver Island, including the Alberni Valley.

In 2008 the Ministry of Environment initiated a review and rewrite of the Environmental Management Act’s Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation. This regulation governs burning of vegetative material associated with a range of activities and generally encourages open burning as a last resort. However, the current regulation follows an “authorize-by-regulation” approach whereby burn operators are not required to obtain a permit but rather expected to simply follow the requirements outlined in the regulation. An audit of the regulation conducted in 2004 by the province found that a significant percentage of burn operators were not in compliance with regulatory requirements.

In the 2008 Policy Intentions Paper for Consultation, the Ministry of Environment articulates a clear desire to tighten the OBSCR burning regulations around populated areas as a means to address air quality impacts. Eight years later, the process appears to be stalled in the consultation and drafting phases with no indication of the progress or timeline for implementation.

This resolution seeks to improve air quality and associated health objectives in communities across the province by encouraging the Ministry of Environment to bring forward new regulations to further limit or ban the burning of wood debris piles on private and crown forest lands within community air-sheds.

8:30AM Saturday

A recap of the events from Friday.

At noon I attended the Island Corridor Foundation’s event at the Nanaimo train station where they were showing off an incredible excusrsion train that they, Southern Rail and the Nanaimo Port Authority are hoping to use, and have development an economic assessment for, to attract cruise ships in Nanaimo and transport people to events and activities up and down the Island.

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It was an incredible ride, 4 trips from the Nanaimo station to Wellington were completely sold out.  There were people literally lining the street, stopping on the highway to watch and take videos, hanging out their windows and balconies and sunrooves.  There was even a police officer who turned her sirens and lights on as she drove by the train and then stopped firther up to take pictures.  The response was just amazing.

After the train ride the main conference began, we had a nice keynote speech from Chief Dr. Robert Joseph from Reconciliation Canada.

I recorded and live streamed his speech on Periscope, part 1 and part 2. 

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We then had a speech from Minister responsible for Local Government, Peter Fassbender.

You can see his presentation here.

That completed the events for Friday aside from a netowrking reception and trade show that is so common at these events.

This morning, Saturday I woke up early to catch a breakfast presention done by the Agricultural Land Commission.

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The main takeaway from that presentation was that the Commission was very busy with about 500 applications across the province every year.  They will be putting the Massey Bridge project to the executive level of oversight at the ALC.

They also talked about the importance of the ALC being involved early in any process and most notably that there is no “no-net-zero” requirement, so communities should not put opposing applications in to take land out, and then land in to the ALR as all applications are always done separately on their own merits.

This morning will be taken up with resolutions and the city of port alberni motions should be good fodder for debate.

I will update again hopefully this afternoon before going on a tour of the Nanaimo water treatment plant.

 

6PM Saturday – Resolutions and Water

After I signed of on this mornings update we dove right into our long list of resolutions (you can see them in the previous update).

The most contentious ones had opposite outcomes.  The first big one was our Railway funding resolution which I spoke to as the sponsor from Port Alberni.

(photo taken by Councillor Minions)

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There was a a lot more back and forth on the issue than I anticipated, with the same “con” arguments being brought up basically centering around the thought that rail would never be viable again, so why bother? There was also much concern expressed about the management of the railway.

Many also spoke on the pro side advocating for the need of the railway to be there as an alternative to highway traffic, as a potential passenger and commuter service, and as a potential tourism and excursion opportunity.  The point was also made that the motion was exclusively about the money required to get started on fixing the tracks on the line between Victoria and Courtenay, not the management of the Island Corridor Foundation.

In the end, the resolution passed quite strongly.

 

The other really contentious issue, perhaps unsurprisingly or perhaps so, was a resolution to urge the Federal Government to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries “without delay”.  I saw this motion simply as a way for the group to push the federal government to bump the legalization file further up the list in terms of priorities to get done in its entirety sooner rather than later.  The need I believe comes from this explosion of dispensaries that all communities are seeing appear.

The counter argument was generally that there was too much left to be done in terms of regulating the production of the marijuana, of funding the administrative enforcement aspects and other issues.

In the end this resolution was the closest in voting.  Rather than only raising our hands/cards we had to do a standing count where each person was counted by scrutineers.

The motion was narrowly defeated.

The last controversy of sorts came back to the railway issue as a Langford resolution to look at the management of the ICF was put off due to time until Sunday morning.  The folks in the room weren’t too happy but it is what it is.  It will be the first thing tomorrow when we get to resolutions again around 8:50AM tomorrow.

The results of all the resolutions will be posted on the AVICC website after the conference but some other motions of interest, by tweet, were:

 

In the early afternoon there were a few sessions on a number of topics.  I did not attend however they generated a considerable amount of discussion which filtered back and I heard from many including our own Councillor Washington who you can see below.

The final part of the afternoon I spent touring the brand new, $70 millionwater treatment and filtration facility just brought online for the City of Nanaimo this past December. What an engineering feat! I wanted to check it out system of course we in Port Alberni may be looking at being forced to build one of these one day.

Nanaimo had one of its worst seasons for turbidity events ever this year.  This plant likely saved them from at least 5 boil water advisories according to Mayor McKay.  It is a very impressive facility. Check out the pictures and description below.  This may be a preview of an addition that we might have to make to our new UV plant at Bainbridge.

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The strands of membrane that water passes and is sucked through that filter the water of the most minute particles.

 

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6NTU (cloudy boil water advisory at 5) water

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strand up close. There are millions in the plant.

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Primary (left) and secondary (right) filters. Water passes over/around and is sucked into and down each like a straw and exits the bottom.

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The water first comes to the pipes where it is treated for proper pH and basic filters.

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The secondary filters in the tanks.

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The primary filters (there are dozens) in each tank stretching down 30ft deep.

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The ‘raw’ water after first filtration but before membrane.

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Pipes coming out the bottom of the membranes with filtered, ready water.

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Each membrane tanks has its own meter tracking turbidity and other key measures.

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Huge pipe on right is taking in up to 2000L/sec to the plant. Currently 500L/sec

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Clean water headed to Nanaimo.

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A large facility.

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Looks almost like whale balleene. Was developed by a Canadian company.

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More big pipes! There is always room to add on in future too. (Two of these where I am standing)

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Water is tested in a lab from every step of the process. Only 5 staff needed for the facility total.

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Everything is computer controlled much like our new system at Bainbridge.

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Some other info.

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That’s all for Saturday.  We have the reception tonight and then back to work early tomorrow morning!

Final Update – Consequential resolutions passed on rail and rights. Speeches and Asset Management.

After a fun night of food and dancing on Saturday night it was back down to business after a 7:30AM breakfast on Sunday.  We started off with a speech from the Leader if the Green Party Andrew Weaver who I also had the pleasure to sit at a table with.  He is always a good person to chat with.

You can see his speech on Periscope here.

The speech of course centred on the alternative his party provides to both the BC NDP and BC Liberal Parties.  I expect we will hear from him again this time next year which will be rit before the next BC election.

After his speech the convention considered the last main resolution.  This was he resolution on management and financial review of the ICF.

It was amended from the original motion to read this way:

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I voted against this resolution mainly because I believe the regional districts themselves simply are not being proactive enough to ask the questions they should be asking if they are worried about the ICFs finances.  The ICF is required, as a federal charity, to follow strict reporting guidelines and it also produces audited financial reports.  It seems that this information is not being sought by the regional districts that make up half the ICF Board.

Another reason is the AVICC does not have the financial or staff resources to pursue this kind of review so it is unclear what the AVICC can do.  And finally, the AVICC and ICF are separate bodies that are completely unrelated to one another.  The ICF has its own governance structure and so it seems strange that one outside agency is reviewing a completely different outside agency especially when you consider that the ICF is set up in a way that First Nations and RDs hold an equal stake.  The First Nations that are on the Board are not being asked to participate or for their opinion at all on this “review” process.  I find that strange.  Regardless, there is definitely concern and frustration about the lack of results.  While that may or may not be he fault of the ICF management, sometimes, the coach gets fired, or gets heat at least, when they perhaps are not the root of the problem.

We then considered the 2nd group of resolutions that are grouped in a block because they are expected to be generally supported by the membership. This included our slash burning limits resolution.  A few motions were attempted to be brought out of the block so they could be debated separstely but none got the amount of support (2/3rd) needed to be considered.

Then there were a number of late resolutions, the biggest was born from a very bizarre situation where an elected official on the South Island was prevented from sitting on committees she was a part of after returning from parental leave.

Here is the resolution. It is truly incredible that something like this would be needed “in 2016”.

The motion passed with no one that I saw raising a hand in opposition. You can seea video of that motion being presented and passed below thanks to a in Sooke which is where the Mayor is the person, mother, in question.

 

We then had a speech from NDP Leader and Leader of the Official Opposition John Horgan.  You can see it here.

Mr. Horgan is a great speaker and he too will be back in front of the AVICC before the next election.  He is very much already in election mode.

And finally, to end the conference we had a presentation on Asset Management.

imageIt addressed the age old question of having to actually pay for infrastructure on an ongoing basis in a large enough fashion to actually avoid it deteriorating to the point where even larger sums of money are needed to catch up.  This is a situation we are in right now in Port Alberni and continue to face.  The slide above showed the results of a survey done of residents on how much they thought repairing a road cost.  As you can see, people generally hugely underestimate the real cost of this work, which is likely partly why there is such a disconnect between the electorate and the elected official and the staff on what is needed in order to truly maintain infrastructure to the level citizens expect.

The presenter gave some good strategies for closing that knowledge and acceptance gap by showing priority maps and plans done for the community of Golden.  It is something we could definitely use here if we do not already have it.

That was it for the conference.

IT was another great event.  The organization was excellent, the City of Nanaimo provided excellent facilities, and the learning sessions I attended were informative and provoked discussion.  The resolutions were debated thoroughly and when we werent debating on the floor we were often deabting with table mates or over a glass of wine at the reception.  I feel as though I further strengthened some ties with officials from other communities which I think will certainly serve me, and by extension, the City better.

The next big conference is the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Winnipeg.  I expect to be blown away as there will be over 10x as many people and a huge amount to learn, but it should be fantastic.  It is in the first half of June.

The next UBCM is in September in Victoria and the next AVICC is this time next year in Campbell River.

Thank you again for reading. I hope you have found this useful.

RFPs to nowhere. Managing expectations.

Ask anyone what they think the most important job of a City is and they will probably say something that includes the words ‘roads’, ‘bridges’, and ‘sewers’.

It is without question that the biggest bill the city faces in terms of tangible, in-your-face, infrastructure is maintaining and replacing those three general things.  So it follows that when the public sees a project that is not performing as well as they expect, that they are especially annoyed. I think the Gertrude Street bridge project falls safely into that category now.

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Here is a time-lapse of its progress from the beginning of February to last Wednesday.

The great controversy has been on the delay and cost overruns.  Certainly one can understand the frustration when initial reports were that the full road closure that started Feb. 3 would “run for three weeks.

Work actually started in the last week of January so we are now entering week 11. Is this a huge time delay that could have been avoided or could this have been predicted?  The best place to look is the bids in response to the Request for Proposals which were in the October 26, 2015 regular agenda package.

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City Council selected the middle quote from K&G with the addendum at the bottom “Precast Option” which put the original price to $249,500 and shortened their original 9 week start/end period by 2 weeks to 7.  Note this was for completion of the whole project, not just the closure of the bridge to traffic.

Other bids from Surespan, Bowerman, Hazelwood and Seismic 2000 had time periods of 9, 11, 8 and 9 weeks respectively.

So by that measure we are actually not far off.  We’re certainly towards the maximum of the alloted times in those bids, but we are not anywhere near the 4x longer than it would seem from the “3 week” window of closure which people may have implicitly taken as the full length of the project.  With the now expected closure lasting until the end of April that will bring us to 14 weeks.  Certainly longer than conceived in any of the RFPs, but allowing for unforeseen issues that do happen from project to project, it is not as stunning to consider.

There is no doubt in my mind that the bill will be higher than the already raised $347,000.  I hope I am wrong.  However, the positive is that this will be a learning experience for both our City staff and City Council.  We have a number of other bridges that are going to need to be renovated or replaced soon.  I hope that the lessons learned here will make it more likely for those projects to go much more smoothly and come in on time, and on budget as I believe is the norm for projects in the City.

P.S.

I have been asked a few times what the purpose of the bridge project was as many have heard that it was only to provide bike lanes.  In fact, the surface of the bridge deck was in need of overhaul as well as the pedestrian walkway and railings.

Here is the full background from the October 6 agenda:

City Council’s approval is requested to award the tender for the construction of the Gertrude
Street Bridge Widening that has been planned for construction in 2015.

Background:

The Gertrude Bridge is a narrow point in our road system that creates a safety issues as it is a well-travelled pedestrian and cyclist path that is also close to AW Neil School. The project was proposed in 2014 to widen the road surface for cyclists and install a separate sidewalk bridge
over Kitsuskis Creek.

The separate sidewalk bridge over Kitsuskis Creek was installed in 2014 upstream of the
existing bridge and the vehicle bridge work was carried over to 2015.

The existing bridge has a treated timber sub structure that is in good condition, however, there are some operational issues:

The asphalt surface bridge deck and timber wheel guards need to be replaced.

The road and sidewalks widths are too narrow for pedestrians and cyclists.

In summary the project components include:

1. Removing the timber wheel guard rails and sidewalk
2. Extending the timber substructure and installing 2 steel girders for the length of the
bridge.
3. Resurfacing the bridge
4. Installing a railing and guard rail on each side of the bridge for cyclists.

The 2015 Capital Budget allocated $250,000 for this bridge widening project.

After Public Input – Now come the hard decisions – Alternate title: Do you really want an 11% increase?

So over the weekend and today I’ve been going through the latest input from you, the public, about what you like and don’t like about the City, and what you feel needs to be done or not done.

If I thought before that that input would make my decision easier now I know for sure, it won’t. 🙂

You can see the results in Tuesday’s agenda here or click the image which shows some of the feedback from the public input session. Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 1.22.13 PM

And here is what the public budget survey looks like:

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And finally I have an excel spreadsheet that is also in the agenda.  Unfortunately only 25 people came to the public input session but 348 people did respond to the survey.  Overall it certainly isn’t a representative survey, but it does give us some ideas.

As I went through the public input I jotted down what seemed to be the projects that got the most, or least support.  These are my notes… broken down in “Yes”… “Yes But” and “No”.  With a couple thoughts from the survey.

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If I match that to the Excel Spreadsheet, here is the result:

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Notice the top line number.  Ouch.

If I take away the pool and Canal Beach….

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Still a hefty hike.  But one thing is clear… if we match up the budget to the input we got, we will have a significant increase on our hands.

Without question, the items that had the strongest support were upgrades to the Beach and to start on the Pool.  Also public bottled water stations and the repairs to the pilings at Harbour Quay.  What didn’t get much support?  Reduction in Transit… increasing Bylaw services… or Fibre Optic installation.

What to do?  Well… one thing that really stood out for me in the online survey was the very strong support for Parks and Rec as well as increasing economic development.

I guess we will just have to figure it out, that’s why Council is here but Council definitely has a lot of food for thought and a lot of tough decisions to make.

 

Logging truck broadside indicates desperate need for Industrial road network

Do we need a designated road network for industrial truck traffic?

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In today’s paper… the story on the logging truck broadsiding a minivan is pretty frustrating and again illustrates the need for a proper industrial route that includes safety measures and traffic calming measures so that truck drivers, car and minivan drivers, pedestrians and all other road users are safe.

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I brought up this issue a few months ago but it has been bogged down in discussions with Western Forest Products.

Sending heavy industrial traffic like logging trucks but also other heavy trucks willy nilly into our most densely populated and high traffic areas simply isn’t safe.  What the heck was a logging truck doing at the corner of 2nd and Argyle?  Was it going up or down Argyle?  Across Argyle on 2nd?  I honestly don’t know but none of the possibilities make any sense.

What we need is a predictable route, only then can the City properly invest in additional safety and traffic calming measures along that route to boost public safety for all road users, pedestrians, bicyclists, and the like.   We simply don’t have the funds to invest in safety improvements to all possible routes heavy trucks might take.

The quote below from RCMP Corporal Amelia Hayden is official confirmation of the dozens of anecdotal reports I have heard and my own observations of lax observance of traffic laws by heavy truck traffic in the uptown area and other areas around the City including Compton Road, Victoria Quay and others.

“On approach to the intersection, the logging truck slowed down but failed to come to a complete stop at the stop sign…. colliding with the passenger door of the mini van”
In the initial report by the News available on their website they state:
“A family with two small boys was said to be in the minivan.”

Thankfully it appears no one was hurt. Lets not wait for someone to actually be hurt or worse before we act on this pressing issue.

I have previously been in favour of investigating the Waterfront Industrial route and it continues to be under investigation including in this year’s budget, however, as commercial, residential and city re-development continues to gather pace along the waterfront, we are creating conditions for increased potential conflict.  Funnelling all our industrial traffic through the intersection at Argyle and Harbour Road may be detrimental in terms of both safety and future economic opportunity.

I believe a proper examination of the current and future opportunities, including the waterfront industrial road, would show the best, most affordable, and safest long term solution from traffic headed to Ship Creek Road is to ensure all heavy truck traffic uses Anderson.  Anderson residents will have urgent and extremely valid concerns that the City would have to address but addressing those concerns would represent a fraction of the cost compared to the millions needed to build the waterfront route.

It is time for a proper industrial truck network in Port Alberni that confines heavy trucks to a limited number of arterial routes through the City.

For more information about all the options, check out the excellent “Truck Talk” series at the Alberni Valley news website.

 

Breaking down the costs of commuting – now with two jobs!

Update: I’ve added the savings if someone was driving a car/truck that got more average mileage. (9L/100km or 26 US mpg)

As many of you likely already know, I commute to work at VIU five days a week. Yup, this means driving back and forth everyday in some fashion.

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Click to see the bus schedule

Since about 2008 (I can’t even remember anymore haha) I have been taking advantage of the Regional District of Nanaimo BC Transit bus from Qualicum or Parksville to Woodgrove and then on to VIU. It adds between 30 and 60 minutes to the trip a day. On a ‘normal’ day I leave Port Alberni around 6AM, drive to Parksville Civic Centre, hop on the bus at 6:45, transfer at Woodgrove and end up at VIU around 7:30AM. On the way back it is a longer journey because of a long layover at Woodgrove and a ‘milk run’ to Parksville so I generally leave VIU at 3:35PM and arrive home at 5:30PM.  If you’re wondering if I’m the only person on the bus, nope not at all.  There are other VIU commuters (employees and students), High School students going to Nanaimo, other workers, many seniors going for day trips either to Nanaimo or often to Vancouver and beyond and other regular bus users, like kids going to the Mall or people who likely don’t have a lot of money, especially First Nations.  The use of the commuter bus between Parksville and Woodgrove has grown noticeably, especially as gas prices have risen.

IMG_1914The cost of an RDN bus pass is $700 a year through the VIU “Pro Pass” program, which is pretty cool.  My pass is #0040.  I’m an early adopter… and as you can see from how grungy it is I use it a lot. The previous Federal Government also instituted a Tax Credit for all bus passes.  So I get 15% of that cost back ($105) so I am currently paying about $590 for the bus pass.

So why take the bus?

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Remember, I’m a geek. So I track my distance travelled with an App on my iPad called “Waze”.

I get this question all the time.  The answer is simple.  Money, and stress. As you can see on the side, the full trip from home to VIU is about 82km.  The drive to Parksville is 45km. I used to drive to Qualicum which is shorter but they changed the bus routes two years ago and made the trip much longer.  So I save about 35km of driving.  That doesn’t seem like much, but in terms of stress on both myself and my car, I find the drive along Highway 19 to be far more stressful, and potentially dangerous, than the extremely familiar Highway 4.

Ya I track that too at www.bcgasprices.com
Ya I track that too at www.bcgasprices.com

Even in a fuel efficient car like my previous 2004 Toyota Echo Hatchback and my even more efficient 2012 Toyota Prius C, this year I saved myself about 9730km of driving by taking the bus.  Not only does that mean 442L of fuel not burned and $505 saved on average, it also means 1.02 tonnes of CO2 not put into the atmosphere. (The buses would run anyway if I am on them or not of course).  Compared to buying a parking pass for either $400 or $600 at VIU and add in the wear and tear on the vehicle and the economic argument is easy as is the safety.  The time argument is the hard one but so far it works.

So now that you have two jobs….

As you might know, I decided to take on a new set of responsibilities (and have been honoured to be allowed to do so!).  So my burning question over the past 12 months in the back of my geeky and miserly brain has been… with the additional driving that I have had to do to attend to City Council business, does it still make sense to take the bus whenever I can?

Well here are the numbers for the past 12 months.

I parked at VIU 41 times = $175 daily parking fees
I drove to VIU and parked for free elsewhere 30 times
(this is my late classes on Wednesdays when I can’t take the bus…)

The only thing I don’t have exact numbers for is days I took the bus, but working backwards I figure I had about 139 “bus days”.  At $700 that works out to around $5 a day.  Which is exactly the same as the cash fare ($2.50 each way).

Average mileage of my Toyota Prius over 2015: 4.548L/100km = 0.04548 L/km (51.7 U.S. mpg).

Home to VIU distance: 82km
Home to Parksville distance: 47km
Difference: 35km

So this year the money I spent on driving all the way to VIU was:
35km * 71 days * 2 = 4970km extra driving past Parksville = 226L fuel *1.144$/L = $258.  Add $175 in parking fees and that’s $433.  CO2 emitted: 0.52 tonnes CO2.

For the bus trips the money I saved was: 35km*139 bus days*2 = 9730km avoided on bus = 442L fuel *1.144$/L = $505 saved = 1.02 tonnes CO2 not emitted.

So taking all of it together and comparing the two:
VIU Bus Pro Pass = $695.24 – $105 tax credit = $590 (15% tax credit)
Extra Driving = $258
Parking tickets = $175
Total with Bus = $1003
CO2 from Driving Parskville to VIU when needed = 0.52 tonnes

If I did not take the bus:
VIU “Econo” limited Parking pass = $400
Driving = $258+$505 = $763
Total without bus = $1163
If I get a VIU “Employee” pass, the cost rises to $600 and total is $1363.
CO2 from Driving from Parksville to VIU full time. = 1.52 tonnes

So I save $160 and 1 tonnes of CO2 not including wear and tear on the vehicle.

Update: You might be wondering how much of a difference the type of car makes.  The answer is a lot.  My Prius C gets 4.5L/100km or 51 US mpg.  If I instead took our 2007 Toyota Matrix which gets around 9L/100km or 26 US mpg the totals would be:

For the Bus: Fuel: 447L/$511 Total: $1386 and 1.03T of CO2

Without the Bus: 875L/$1001 (plus above) Total: $1912 and 2.02T of CO2.

So in an “average” mileage car I would save $526 and 2T of CO2.

Now these numbers are not going to be perfect but they should be pretty darn close to accurate. So even with the additional driving that I have had to do with the new City Council duties, it still makes sense for me to take the bus as much as possible both from a cost perspective and an environmental perspective.  And that does not include additional maintenance costs or consideration on safety.

Public Transit saves everyone money

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Click to see a full mockup schedule of a mid island commuter train service that I presented to the RDN in 2014.

Commuting isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  Especially with home price differences so great between Port Alberni and other mid-island communities I believe we will see more commuters, not less.  This is why I continue to advocate for transit options to open up between Parksville and Port Alberni either with a bus like the one between Parskville and Woodgrove or using the Railway (see the link).  The cost savings are substantial both to people and to the taxpayer in terms of maintenance on roadways and safety, which means more money in everyones pocket to spend on other things. The benefit to the environment and overall safety is obvious.