Have a rental crunch? Don’t be dense!

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Scarce and increasingly expensive rental properties in Calgary have been making the news lately. Mayor Nenshi took advantage of the issue to ignore basic supply and demand principles while trying to label Calgary landlords as being greedy and gouging.

It is no secret that Naheed Nenshi is a very ideologically dedicated to increasing urban density within Calgary by any means possible such as Calgary’s virtual suburban development freeze. While hindering and freezing outward growth in a city will indeed lead to increased urban density it will also inevitably lead to a higher cost of living, particularly in the rental market. This makes it understandable as to why Nenshi wants to distract people from the consequences of his development policies with a baseless and divisive attack on landlords within Calgary. It would be rather difficult for Nenshi to sell his density mantra if more people realized just how hard those density policies end up impacting low and middle income Calgarians.

The vast majority of people simply do not want to live in crowded downtown situations. That is why when the market is allowed to develop naturally, cities will grow outward to fill demand and it will keep real-estate and rental properties within the bounds of proper market price. When outward growth is hindered by obstacles such as an ocean or ideological city council, higher urban density along with greatly inflated housing costs soon follow.

Don’t just take my word for it though. The numbers tell the tale and the very direct correlation between urban density and high rent is very easy to see.

Below I have listed American cities in order of declining density based on people per mile square and then have the average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in US dollars next to it.

New York City   27,778 people per sq. mile       Average rent: $2,933

San Francisco 17,867 people per sq. mile         Average rent: $3,413

Boston  13,340 people per sq. mile                    Average rent: $2,080

Chicago 11,864 people per sq. mile                   Average rent: $1,628

Miami    11,765 people per sq. mile                    Average rent: $2,049

Seattle  7,774 people per sq. mile                      Average rent: $1,402

Cleveland 5,107 people per sq. mile                  Average rent: $635

Portland Oregon 4,375 people per sq. mile       Average rent: $1,106

Houston 3,662 people per sq. mile                    Average rent: $1,191

Dallas 3,645 people per sq. mile                        Average rent: $1,090

Phoenix 2,797 people per sq. mile                     Average rent: $776

Las Vegas 1,659 people per sq. mile                 Average rent $766

The pattern is pretty stark. While variables such as local economy, taxes and desirable real-estate have an effect, it is clear that the higher the urban density you have, the higher the rent.

Even with a strong economy and an incredible landscape, the hipster’s Mecca of Portland Oregon keeps rents reasonable through outward growth and low urban density.

Houston and Dallas are commonly demonized by density proponents for their evil “sprawl” but they clearly offer a great standard of living as they both have strong economies and low rents. Phoenix and Vegas have all sorts of space to grow outwards and it shows with their very low density and their associated low rents. Calgary has plenty of room to grow outward too if we would just allow it.

Keep these numbers in mind as Mayor Nenshi continues to promote high urban density and constant tax increases. While Nenshi may indeed create his high-density utopia but it will come at a very heavy price for people with low or fixed incomes as rents inevitably continue to rise quickly. High density and low rent simply does not happen in the developed world.

 

 

 

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Ideas so good they have to be mandatory!

The Purple Peacock

Naheed Nenshi has a dream. In Nenshi’s utopia, Calgarians will eschew suburban living and automobiles en masse while embracing high density downtown condo living and riding bicycles or taking transit to work. Calgary will turn into some sort of North American Amsterdam and lead the world in urbanist dreams. Industrial districts will vanish along with those nasty railroads that move consumer goods. Calgary will offer food trucks, art galleries and coffee shops as main industries. Hipsters from around the world will travel to Calgary to ride bicycles and gaze upon public art created by sole sourced foreign artists.

Despite using every tool at His disposal, Nenshi’s dream so far has pretty much been an utter failure. There is one factor that is foiling Nenshi’s every move to create this beautiful fantasy city. That factor is consumer choice!

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Yes, those damned unwashed Calgarians just refuse to embrace Nenshi’s dream. Citizens are voting with their wallets and moving to bedroom communities in record numbers to flee the congestion and costs that are growing under Nenshi’s high-density stewardship of Calgary. Calgarians are still refusing to jam themselves like sardines into aromatic city transit or ride bicycles to work in winter as well. The personal auto is still by far the most popular means of transportation in Calgary.

Nenshi has tried every punitive means at his disposal to try to get people out of cars. Streets are being given away for a non-existent cyclist demand and parking spaces removed as quickly as possible. City Hall is now even considering charging people to park in front of their own homes. Those damned drivers are still ignoring Nenshi’s efforts to save them from themselves.

Rather than respect the wishes of Calgarians, Nenshi wants the province to empower him to force people to give up their autos and force neighboring municipalities to plan based on His own ridiculous density targets.

Nenshi has long been begging the province to grant him additional taxation powers. Property taxes alone are inadequate to feed Nenshi’s spending lust despite constant massive annual increases. Property taxes and fees do not allow Nenshi to punish behavior he doesn’t like and direct the unwashed masses into the mold He dreams of. Nenshi wants the power to charge for auto registrations and to tax the hell out of fuel. He wants to make automotive use as expensive and unviable as possible.

Nenshi’s taxation dreams have thankfully been stymied by our provincial government and it appears that they will continue to be.

Nenshi’s city hall has been strangling development in the suburbs through bureaucratic means and he has dedicated profound energy to demonizing people who choose to live in the suburbs and those businesses that dare to service such demand. Instead of squeezing into Nenshi’s square hole however, people are simply moving away from Nenshi’s playground altogether.

Nenshi’s plan to curb the exodus of citizens and businesses from the city is even more odious than his taxation dreams. Nenshi has been pushing and making ridiculous demands for a provincially mandated Municipal Development Plan which would give Him a veto power over development plans in neighboring municipalities and impose Calgary’s density requirements upon them.

Nenshi’s unbending demands for authority over other municipalities has stunted any chance of a regional development agreement being developed. Regional planning is a good thing but it simply has to be cooperative. Rather than subject themselves to Nenshi’s dictatorial dreams, the MDs of Foothills, Wheatland and Rocky View have told Nenshi to kiss their collected asses. Okotoks and Airdrie have refused to participate and so far the provincial government has refused to intervene.

Nenshi’s pouting has gotten more vocal as he has been stamping his foot and demanding that the province step in and force those uppity neighbors to take part in his dream.

So far no provincial ministers have indulged Nenshi in His fervent demands as they pretty much know that doing so would be committing political suicide in rural constituencies.

We must remain on guard though. Nenshi is a canny political strategist and he can smell vulnerability in the Progressive Conservative Party right now. You can bet that Nenshi is pressuring the individual leadership candidates to promise a provincially forced Municipal Development Plan and it is possible that one of those candidates may foolishly commit to such a promise in hopes of securing the Purple Endorsement in both the leadership and the next provincial election.

If people wanted to live in Nenshi’s dream, they would choose to. The ever vaunted and subsidized “East Village” languishes undeveloped and suburbs remain popular. Auto sales continue in record numbers and weekend road trips remain more popular than art festivals. Nenshi will never understand and respect the reality that he is supposed to serve the will of the electorate rather than direct it. That is why Nenshi consistently resorts to the hammer rather than accommodating the needs and wants of citizens. That of course is why it is critical that we ensure that our provincial government never empowers Nenshi as he is demanding. It would be damned tough to get that toothpaste back into the tube.

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Going Postal! Brian Pincott burning tax dollars in Calgary to fight progress.

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As we see Calgary’s city council pleading poverty while they slam Calgary with year after year of record tax and fee increases, we also see council members pissing tax dollars down the drain on pointless pet projects and studies.

It is old news that Canada Post will be eliminating door to door home delivery in the very near future. The crown corporation has been bleeding red ink as the demand for home letter mail withers away due to advancements in modern communications. Just as pasteurization and modern refrigeration removed the need for a milk-man to deliver dairy products to our doors, the internet has eliminated the need to have a person deliver mail to our doors. Bill payments are predominantly automated and communications are now electronic.

Canada Post began moving towards community mail boxes rather than home delivery 30 years ago. Most of Calgary’s new districts have never had home mail delivery and they are served perfectly fine in getting their junk mail at nearby community boxes. It is a proven means of mail delivery and there really is little need to study further.

But wait!!! Who is this White Knight riding to the rescue of the fast-disappearing unionized postal carrier??

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Yes, it is none other than Calgary city councillor Brian Pincott. Pincott has a well-earned reputation as a fool who loves to waste tax dollars on things outside of council jurisdiction such as wasting countless dollars trying to  ban types of soup. Pincott also wants to ban homeowners from cutting their own trees or having fire pits and wants to tell you what kind of lights you can turn on. I guess we should not be surprised when we see that Pincott wants to try to protect an utterly obsolete line of work. Perhaps Brian will spend tax dollars studying Calgary’s loss of blacksmiths next.

What Pincott is proposing is to use city bureaucracy to waste time and money to try and hold up Canada Post as they try to establish their community mailboxes. From the CBC article on it: “He wants a community consultation process developed and a report back to a council committee by this December.”

What is to study? What is to report? This type of delivery has been used for decades. There is nothing that a new process will uncover here. This is nothing more than a stall tactic.

Pincott has to know that the evolution away from home mail delivery is inevitable. I am sure Pincott is well aware that this is utterly outside of the jurisdiction of city council. Pincott loves to call for all sorts of studies and consultations so he has to be well aware that these things cost untold millions to taxpayers cumulatively. Why then is Brian Pincott pursuing this foolishness?

The answer is simple. Brian Pincott is propped up by union support. Pincott was very strongly contested in the 2013 election. He needs to maintain whatever support that he has. What Pincott is essentially doing is pissing away untold thousands of taxpayers dollars on a move that is utterly futile in order to kiss the collective asses of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Be assured that the CUPW will likely toss a nice healthy contribution towards Pincott’s next campaign and encourage their mail-monkeys en-masse to help knock on doors for him.

Getting back to why the City of Calgary is constantly hiking taxes, when there are unprincipled councillors like Brian Pincott tossing around  and wasting tax dollars like that, how can we be surprised? Be happy taxpayers! We all just donated to Pincott’s next campaign!

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How about letting Calgary evolve as Calgary?

calgary

Hardly a week goes by when we don’t hear from some apparently self-loathing urban dwelling Calgarian wistfully sighing about how Calgary must become like <insert ancient European city here> if indeed are to become “world class”,

Last week during one of the countless obscure festivals that seem to bubble up we saw this attitude in spades at the “Spur Festival” (whatever that is). Guest speaker & American Author Daniel Brook derided Calgary’s “urban character” as being a “Texas in the Arctic” to the roomful of giddy collected hipsters. Brooks then went on plugging his book which celebrates cities such as Shanghai, Mumbai and St. Petersburg and the autocratic regimes that brought them about. I do become uncomfortable when people show admiration for the efficiency of autocratic regimes. Stalin’s 5 year plans did wonders for Eastern European development for example but came at a rather steep price. All of the aforementioned cities developed over 1000 years before Calgary did and in utterly different cultural structures but apparently we somehow can and should become more like them. Maybe if Nenshi had more autocratic powers…… Ahh that speculation goes down the city charter road which is fodder for another posting.

Next up of course was Calgary’s controversial and density obsessed city planner Rollin Stanley. Stanley retreated from his prior gig in Maryland after having offended most of the county having labelled those who challenge his density goals as being “rich white women” who apparently travel in a “coven”. Yes, Stanley is all class and we should be proud that Nenshi managed to scoop him up for us. Surely the room was breathless as Stanley gave his stock speech on why we must fight consumer demand and press development inward.

The trend of berating people who dare speak up for their communities in the suburbs and the contempt shown to them is troubling.

I am sick of hearing how Calgary must change it’s character. I tire of some people within our own city calling the Calgary Stampede our biggest claim to shame. I tire of people wagging their fingers at the 90% or so of Calgarians who dare to choose not to live downtown no matter how hard city council tries to stuff the vaunted “East Village” down our throats. I am tired of whining hipsters labelling us all as rednecks every time a civic policy goes against the density mantra.

Calgary is a city that is booming and growing. That growth is far and away predominantly outward as the vast majority of Calgarians pursue single detached households in the suburbs. We need to quit whining about that reality and begin planning for it. Nenshi’s virtual development freeze has only led to a boom in development among bedroom communities and a catastrophically expensive downtown. These kinds of efforts to fight the natural development and evolution of our city are indeed changing the character of the city but not for the better.

Calgary is still the frontier. People of ambition are coming from all over the world to settle in and make a life in the city. Most of these people are working in the energy industry whether directly or indirectly and the vast majority of these people do NOT want to live downtown. There is nothing to be ashamed of in this. Perhaps those people who can’t handle the realities of the true character of Calgary should drop the spite and move to Manhattan where they can split rent on a $3500 per month tiny apartment with 7 other baristas and liberal arts graduates to see just what a paradise urban density can be.

Calgary is unique in culture and general nature. Let’s embrace that instead of aspiring to be something else. The self-esteem movement sure works hard to ensure that individuals accept and embrace who they are instead of trying to be somebody else. That concept should apply to entire cities as well.

 

 

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Reality on the impacts of Macleod Trail lane closure for bike lanes

Macleod Trail

One of the most vapid cases to be made in justifying the closure of major road arteries is the old: “Auto commuters should support this as every car taken off the road makes more room for them!”

If indeed Calgary’s proposed cycle infrastructure was complimentary to the existing roadways that statement would be true. Since Calgary’s proposed cycle tracks are all coming at the direct expense of existing roadways the above contention of car removal is simply BS.

The section of Macleod Trail (among the busy roads targeted) that the city wants to close a lane on moves about 25,000 cars per day. When transit is taken into account (bus riders will have their commute times extended by this too) we are looking at roughly 1.3 occupants per vehicle out there for about 32,500. Now in removing 25% of the roadway, we will be displacing 8125 people. As that section of road is one-way, we need not cut the number in half as most will only travel that stretch once in a day. Let’s be generous and make the figure 8000 then.

For the proposed bike track on Macleod Trail to actually reduce traffic we would need to see at least 8000 people who drive only on Macleod Trail alone to give up their cars and ride their bikes to work.

Reality dictates that we would only see a few hundred people leave their cars in winter at best on Macleod Trail and lets be generous and say 1000 in summer. The remaining 31,000+ commuters will be jammed into a much smaller roadway which in turn will extend their daily commute times which will lead to more idling and emissions and leads to reduced productivity and quality home time for daily commuters.

This is not theory folks, this is simple math.

Until the cycle proponents can convince us that nearly 25% of commuters will give up their cars and ride bikes to work all year round the case that bike tracks at the expense of automotive lanes is nothing more than pap.

 

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The business of bike lanes

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We already know that taking automotive lanes out of arteries like Macleod Trail and 12 Ave for bike lanes will greatly tie up our already congested traffic in Calgary. Despite that, city planners are planning to destroy that expensive infrastructure that we paid for in order to service a handful of cycle commuters. Aside from the traffic catastrophe, how will these cycle tracks impact local businesses?

Recently Calgary’s fervent bicycle advocates have been trumpeting an opinion piece by the head of Calgary Economic Development that claims that cycle-tracks that come at the expense of automotive lanes are good for local businesses. It should be remembered that Calgary Economic Development is essentially an extension of Calgary city hall (it is funded by city hall) and it is not a group that represents businesses despite a name that may imply such. The Calgary Chamber of Commerce or the Downtown Business Association on the other hand actually do work with downtown businesses and the Downtown Business Association has already expressed concern for the agresive and poorly planned expansion of bike tracks throughout downtown.

The sources that keep claiming that bike lanes are good for business tend to be almost exclusively environmentalist and cycle advocate blogs.

When actual businesses are asked how bike lanes have impact their businesses we hear an utterly different story.

Who should we believe? Environmental activists or the business owners who are actually being impacted? Would all these business owners be lying and wanting to harm their own bottom lines? If bike lanes were so good for business, somebody had better tell all those business owners below.

In Ottawa the stories are piling up on how bike lanes on Laurier have been detrimental to their businesses from restaurants to a copy shop.

In Vancouver it was found that bike lanes reduced business revenues by 11%.

The full Vancouver bike lane study is below and well worth a read. Despite their claims, it appears that cyclists are chintzy shoppers that only made up 8% of customers on the streets with separated lanes. The cost of the lanes to local businesses was estimated at $2.4 million per year in sales.

Stantec report on study of impact on business from separated bike lanes

A Toronto eatery has been terribly impacted by bike lanes. I guess the logic is the old: you have to break a few eggs….

Not good when the egg being broken by cycle ideologues is your small business.

In Halifax bike lanes have damaged small local businesses.

Even in New York City zealous cycle advocates have managed to get bike lanes on Broadway with catastrophic results. 

With a short trip down google one can easily find a myriad of these kinds of stories from Australia (where at least the weather cooperates) to the USA.

Instead of listening to actual business owners who are looking at their bottom lines, cycle advocates are citing pap from sites like “treehugger.com” (yes there really is such a site and they are using it).

If these bike lanes are so bang-up-good for businesses, why don’t we see these business owners themselves out in the streets demanding them? The answer is that business owners are bound by the hard realities of making a profit rather than the fuzzy ideologies of the anti-car set.

The Stantec report on bike lane impacts on business (linked again below) is one of the most comprehensive of it’s kind that has followed up on the placements of separated bike lanes in Canada. Every councilor should read that in full before considering accepting the insane bike lane plan that calls for closing a lane on Macleod Tr. among other critical road lanes.

Stantec report on study of impact on business from separated bike lanes

 

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Nenshi advises silence in hopes that fallout from sexual assault case goes away.

 

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In what appears to be one of the most scandalous and criminal issues to come from Calgary City Hall in years we have a response from Mayor Naheed Nenshi that is as scandalous as the issue itself; Nenshi has told council members to shut up in hopes that it goes away.

 

Rather than express outrage, rather than call for further inquiry, rather than at least express remorse over the issue, Naheed Nenshi has chosen to send an email to the other members of city council advising them not to speak to the public about this issue.

 

 

A woman while employed by the City of Calgary had been sexually assaulted repeatedly by her supervisor so many times that an arbitrator has ruled that she should be compensated $800,000 (not that any dollar amount can fix this). It appears that her attempts to end the assaults were ignored and possibly even covered up by her superiors. A tremendous hole in city procedure has been exposed here at the least. We should not be quietly wondering how this happened, we should be screaming and demanding to find out how this outrage happened and ensuring that this can never happen again! Instead of such strong demands, Calgary’s Mayor’s first response has been to try and get people to stop talking about it.

 

 

While hysterics and witch-hunts are not what we need in response to this issue, at the very least we need some open and frank discussion on this and we need it right now, not later. Deferral is a specialty of city hall and we can’t let that happen on something this important. The first step in trying to indefinitely defer an issue is to try and get people to stop talking about it. Nenshi knows this quite well.

 

 

Does Naheed Nenshi understand that it is a culture of gagging people on these issues that allows this to happen? Telling others to shut up is exactly what happened to facilitate the ongoing horror that this poor woman endured and it appears that Nenshi’s first instinct is to try to quietly cover up the issue rather than shine a large public spotlight upon it to expose the ugliness. This is an even bigger issue than the overpopulation of white people in city hall that Nenshi described his dislike of.

 

 

As with any problem that people get squeamish to address (such as addiction for example), the hardest but most important part is to admit that there is a problem in the first place. No more silence, no more excuses, no studies or committees are required here. That this incident happened repeatedly and over such a period demonstrates without question that there is a major problem in the management of City Hall. It is time to spread the cleansing light of true transparency (that buzz word that Nenshi pays lip service to but hasn’t followed through on) upon City Hall’s procedures and practices for sexual harassment. Most large administrations ironed this sort of thing out fairly well in the 1980s but clearly Calgary needs more work here. We need to open things up to see where the rot is but in order to do so we need leadership that is ready to speak to the issue to the public rather than hide it as Nenshi did with his request to city council members stating: “I would very strongly suggest not speaking to the media,”

 

 

In municipal politics, we have no official opposition that helps ensure responsibility on the part of government management. We in the public rely upon the media to at least report on issues so we can see a snapshot of what is going on in there. To suggest that our elected officials refuse to speak to the media (public) on such a critical issues is nothing less than abhorrent.

 

 

Having stepped into it on this issue, I am sure that Nenshi will be returning from Switzerland with a prepared statement full of flowery terms speaking of changing the “culture” of city hall in the pursuit of more “inclusiveness” and “vibrancy” and such. I am sure that part of Nenshi’s attempt to silence councilors on this issue was to ensure that they didn’t dare take a leadership role and address the issue before Nenshi himself could climb to the pulpit and tell us all why and how he will make it all better.

 

 

There is more to leadership than tweeting witty quips and hamming for cameras at every ribbon-cutting and festival in the city. Sometimes a leader has to take on some tough issues and they have to do it publicly and openly.

 

 

We have seen the first instinct from Nenshi on this critical issue and his instinct was to try and hush people up. That in itself is very telling and the sensitive and carefully crafted words that are sure to come from him soon on the issue will be ringing rather hollow in light of his initial response.

 

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Calgary secret taxi police to set up sting operations! Priorities indeed.

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The antics of Calgary City Hall never fail to amaze and depress a person. The city of Calgary has actually strangled taxi licenses so much over the years that “gypsy” cabs have been appearing to provide transportation to stranded and desperate Calgarians. In response to this issue, rather than address the gross shortage of taxis in Calgary, city hall’s top livery bureaucrat is threatening “grotesque fines” and even says there is a “covert operation” where these evil and uncontrolled drivers may be caught and charged for daring break Calgary’s archaic taxi laws. In Nenshi’s Calgary the truth is indeed often stranger than fiction.

Despite numbers painting a clear and hard reality that Calgary has a desperate shortage of taxis, Calgary’s city council still inexplicably continues to make excuses rather than pursue the rather simple and obvious solution of just issuing more damned licenses. Councilor Shane (Mr. Flipflop) Keating has spoken of a bizarre concept of temporarily deputizing drivers at peak times while most of the rest of council has stayed oddly silent on this issue.

Mayor Nenshi has gotten outright belligerent. A person innocently tweeted him to ask about this circumstance and got the arrogant and snotty response from Nenshi pictured below.

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It’s just snowstorms Nenshi? Don’t recall many of them during Stampede or summer concerts. People should really expect at least some courtesy when they ask our mayor on a real and pressing city issue.

Why is it so complicated to simply release more licenses? Why are taxis so special and coddled as opposed to other businesses? Do we regulate how many restaurants per capita Calgary has? Car dealerships? Jewelers?

Excuses abound from Calgary’s city council. Even St. Nenshi has laid out the rather weak excuse that Calgary has a dispatch problem and suggests that changes to license regulations are needed rather than admit that we have a shortage of cabs.

The numbers make the fact undeniable (despite Calgary City Council’s denials).  CALGARY HAS A TAXI SHORTAGE!!!!

Let’s look at the simple numbers here. In 1986 Calgary had 1311 taxis servicing a population of 640,000 making a taxi to person ratio of 1-488. Today Calgary has about 1500 taxis (city just added 55 precious new licenses) servicing nearly 1,150,000 people making a taxi to person ratio of 1-767. While the city population has nearly doubled, the number of taxis allowed has grown by less than 15%! If we are to insist on treating taxis like some special, precious commodity that needs such direct management we should at least increase the numbers to reflect population growth.

The density obsessed in Calgary’s city hall love to try and point to New York City as some sort of density paradise where people eschew cars. Well in New York City the cab ratio is about 1 for every 159 people. That ratio goes to 1-117 in Manhattan. That is around 650% more taxis per capita than we have in Calgary. How do they expect people to quit using personal vehicles when city council insists on strangling transportation alternatives? I assure you, folks are not flocking to the damned bike lanes in January.

How much longer do we need to see these headlines before our oddly silent city council will act on this very simple problem?

Temporary taxi stand idea aims to alleviate Stampede travel headaches (the stands were scrapped shortly afterwards and were an utter failure)

Excuses keep coming for Calgary’s taxi ‘service’ even when the cabs themselves clearly aren’t.

People had three hour waits for taxis at Calgary’s airport last week and many resorted to renting cars in desperation. While Calgary City Hall spends $500,000 on idiotic blue ring lightpost “art” in order to make us “world class”, we can’t apparently get our visitors out of the airport. While there may be outright dozens of folks drawn to visit our fine “Peace Bridge”, I can assure you that thousands of visitors got a bad taste in their mouths as their first impression of Calgary was waiting for hours to get out of the airport. World class indeed.

City addresses cab shortage concerns with the start of Ramadan

Yes, rather than address the shortage by putting more taxis on the street, the city erected a prayer tent for drivers. Brilliant.

Calgary cabbies buck bylaw, ignore customer calls a third of the time. Bottom line here is that taxi drivers are taking advantage of the critical cab shortage. They are purposely ignoring short trips from dispatch in order to cherry pick the more lucrative ones. The consumer as always loses.

Want a taxi New Year’s? One public official says… ‘Give up!’

The above advice applies to Flames games, concerts, Stampede of course, pretty much any last call on a weekend or any other time that more than an average number of people may want a taxi. You are not advised to wait a little longer, you are advised that it is hopeless.

The bottom line is that Calgary has a critical shortage of taxis. The next time a city official whether elected or not tries to claim otherwise, call bullshit on them and point them here. This is a simple problem with a simple solution.

With the vigor that many in city hall put into protecting the broken status quo in taxi management in Calgary, one is forced to wonder just who’s palms are getting greased here. To go to the point of sting operations for possible illegal operators? Unreal.

Calgary needs more taxis! Nothing less will address this chronic issue.

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City of Calgary’s war on cars getting ridiculous.

Macleod Trail

I honestly have to wonder if the plan to close an entire lane on downtown Calgary’s section of Macleod Trail (1 St SE) in order to put in a bike track is not a bait and switch tactic. Perhaps the plan is to get people so worked up with this profoundly stupid plan that Calgarians will sigh in relief when our ideologues in city planning decide to move the lanes over to 4 St SE in that precious parking lot of subsidies that they call “East Village”. The question on most people’s minds when it comes to this plan is; “Can they really be that stupid?”. Sadly the answer is yes.

Let’s look at some numbers right now to dispel some of the weak bullshit that proponents of this pending traffic catastrophe are using in order to justify this idiocy. Last spring the city took a lane of parking from 7 St. SW and created a separated bike track. I checked it out and didn’t find it too bad aside from a lack of cyclists actually using it. The lane came at tremendous expense as our cities finest needed to have 10 people to paint a simple box. It’s done, the lane is now there and we are expected to get over it.

Well in a matter of a few months the city has compiled some numbers and now is claiming that traffic flow has increased on 7 St SW due to the bike track. At best that is a half truth. Traffic flow on 7 St. SW has increased but that has been due entirely to the city finally synchronizing the traffic light system there and has nothing to do with the lane itself. Those lights could (and bloody well should) have been synchronized with the same effect on traffic flow without a bike track being placed at all.

Some are trying to spoon-feed us the horsepoop that this justifies the crazy plan to close an entire traffic lane on one of downtown Calgary’s busiest streets and that this will actually aid traffic flow on Macleod Trail South. Macleod Trail South (1 St SE) and 7 St. SW are completely incomparable as city transportation corridors and it is nothing less than utterly disingenuous to try and compare them as many are trying to do.

To begin with, the lane taken to use as a bike track on 7th St. SW was a parking lane, not a driving one. If anything, just the loss of people stopping and meddling around to parallel park eased flow a little bit. If traffic flow was the real goal, it could likely have been doubled simply by getting rid of the parking lane and opening it up to vehicular traffic along with synchronizing the traffic lights. Many drivers now choose to use other streets to drive rather than the one with the bike track as well which contributes to increased flow on 7th but decreases flow wherever they have spilled to of course. To reiterate, the bike track itself had nothing to do with the increase in traffic flow on 7th St. SW.

Next, 7th St. SW was one of the least used streets in all of downtown Calgary. It is a short connector of a street with only a couple lanes that only moved about 5,000 cars per day. Macleod Trail South (1 St. SE) in the city core however moves over 25,000 vehicles per day and is one of the most critical arteries in the entire core. The proposed area for this ludicrous bike track is not a parking lane, it is a traffic lane and it is heavily utilized. To squash thousands and thousands of cars into even less lanes will impact traffic on all of the roads feeding this critical route as well. Anybody who works downtown knows just how fun it is to try and turn on to 1 St SE during rush hour. Now imagine that task with one less lane and a ridiculous two way bike lane in the way. We can count on increased traffic jams on 4th Ave, 6th Ave and so on as people desperately try to adjust to this loss of critical infrastructure. There are bus stops on one side of the street and will be bike tracks on the other. Over 25,000 vehicles will be squashed in between as there is no comparable egress from downtown nearby.

The statement that the transportation planning is anti-car is quite well justified when looking at this lunacy from them. To purposely target the busiest street in all of Calgary to accommodate 1% of commuters proves this point rather well. Why the hell is it impossible to synchronize traffic lights throughout the city anyway? Oh yeah, our planners are focused on traffic “calming” rather than flow. In the last 20 years the percentage of people who choose to commute to work on bikes in Calgary has remained at a flat 1% range despite a huge increase in bike infrastructure.

There will always be a hardy one in a hundred souls who want to ride a bike to work all year round. That number has not grown however and it simply will not. People will not give up their cars and ride bikes to work no matter how hard our city tries to pressure them to. Do we really expect a middle aged person in the suburbs to decide to spend an extra two hours of their day riding a bike back and forth to work in the snow downtown? How about in summer? How many folks do you think will ride a bike for 15km each way in 30 degree heat? Do they all have the time and means to shower and change every day at work or will they funk it out? We have to get realistic here.

If city transportation planning really isn’t anti-car, then why does cycle infrastructure always seem to come at the expense of vehicle infrastructure that is already heavily in use?

As a growing city, we have pressures on our transportation infrastructure. Our freespending mayor loves using that as an excuse to keep up his lobbying for record tax increases. We will get much more bang for our buck in transportation infrastructure if we began planning and building it to reflect the real needs and wants of commuters. That would require having city hall dropping their anti-car agenda however and I am not sure if and when that may happen.

As a final note, it is not like we shouldn’t have seen this coming. The city planners released a plan to run a bike lane at the expense of as many as two automotive lanes down the entire length of Macleod Trail. Don’t underestimate their capacity for ideologically driven foolishness.

 

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Calgary tax dollars at work.

The other day, I ran across a picture on a Calgary discussion board that depicted the all too typical scene of a large number of city employees standing around while one or two fellows actually worked on the rather simple task at hand.

In this case the task was to paint a green square on the road on a bike track. The forum was at http://www.beyond.ca and the picture was posted by (and presumably taken by) a poster who goes by rage2.  

bike

The picture sort of says it all. We have had a Mayor and council constantly pleading poverty in Calgary while trying to justify a whopping 32% increase in property since Naheed Nenshi took the Mayor’s chair less than three years ago. Our Mayor and city council constantly pretend that it is utterly impossible for the City to streamline or even cut expenditures while scenes like that pictured above show that there is plenty of room to have the expenditure of our tax dollars done in a more effective manner. The excuses fly while countless dollars are wasted on foolish studies of whimsical plans and outright idiotic gameshow style “consultation” circuses that are ignored when the taxpayers wish something different than His Worship intended them to.

I tweeted the image and it took off as dozens of people retweeted this little piece of dark comedy.

This brought about the attention of Mayor Nenshi who to his credit is very responsive to social media. What Nenshi tweeted in justification of the depicted scene is below:

 

This whole scene was apparently a training session.

Umm….. OK… I guess I will just have to come right out and say it: HOW MUCH TRAINING DOES IT TAKE TO PAINT A GREEN DAMNED BOX ON A ROAD????

Seriously folks, we are in a city with over a million people that has thousands of civic employees and city contractors. None of them had been trained already in painting things on the road?

I wonder, is a special training course required to paint the image below:

leftturn

Does another differently trained crew need to come in and flip the stencil at other intersections or will they only need a different supervisor or two?

rightturn

Now we are going to get tricky. The painting job below requires two colors and possibly two stencils. How many workers were required? 20? 30? How many months was the training course?

handicapped

I have to admit, I could use a gig like training folks to paint boxes on roads. I had a great deal of informal training in my youth with more complicated design as pictured below:

chalk

I can provide my own training manual so that there shall be no confusion for trainees should they find themselves in a circumstance where they may need to paint something with less than 6 supervisors present.

paintbynumber

As a surveyor I am familiar with complex tools such as graph paper and measuring tape so will be able to “confirm final design” on painted boxes with possibly as few as two assistants. I have ArcGIS and could confirm such things alone from the comfort of an office in about 30 seconds but I do understand that our city has a limited amount of resources and needs to be led in baby steps here.

Is it really surprising that Calgary City council managed to blow the West LRT budget literally by 100% in light of how complex painting a simple box on a road appears to be?

In light of all this, I wonder what portion of our city budget is dedicated to road painting alone in Calgary. We have a great deal of pavement out there.

I really have not seen such a scandalous waste of tax dollars on paint since Mulroney purchased the masterpiece below for $1.8 million Canadian tax bucks.

voice

Calgary really needs to flush out City Council this fall in favor of some candidates with at least a little grounding in fiscal reality.

I am making light of this, but the issue of out of control spending by municipal governments is deadly serious. As Detroit how they are loving that great art collection these days.

 

Response-to-City-Budget

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