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Is it time for a congestion tax in Fredericton?

Posted by on 24 Sep 2012 | Tagged as: fail, Fredericton

Congestion taxes are a trendy new way for cities to collect revenue. Many large cities have them in the form of tolls or extra registration fees on cars.

Fredericton can do it differently by only making the people that cause congestion pay. Much of the congestion is caused by poor driving, such as stopping in merge lanes and blocking intersections. Rather than try to correct that behavior, why not milk it as much as possible?

It can be done in four easy steps:

  1. Create bylaws that make it illegal for cars to stop in merge lanes, block intersections, etc. The difference would be that the ticket would be the responsibility of the car owner (like a parking ticket). That way, the cars won’t have to be pulled over to issue the ticket.
  2. Hire a bylaw officer to take pictures of cars stopping in merge lanes.
  3. Send the tickets in the mail.
  4. Hire someone to count the masses and masses of money that comes in.

This solution will singlehandedly solve the problem of the declining unconditional grants, the pension deficit and frustration caused by rising property tax bills.

How not to spend $100,000

Posted by on 23 Jul 2012 | Tagged as: fail, Fredericton, landuse

How much did it cost the City of Fredericton to tear down that old strip club? They sold the land for $100,000 less than they paid for it, plus they paid to tear down the building. You would think at that price, they would be able to force the buyer to build a nice, high-quality building.

What will we get instead? A squat (presumably) wood-framed building with “horizontal siding” (probably vinyl). Another typical cheapo Fredericton apartment building (will the rent also be cheap? Doubt it.)

Don’t get me wrong, the developers should be free to build as cheaply as they like, but when they get an indirect subsidy from the city, the bar needs to be set higher.

More details about the site are available here at yourfred.com

How hard is it to find out if Fredericton has free parking on Easter Monday?

Posted by on 11 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: fail, Fredericton, opengovernment

Don’t work for the government? Bet you had to go to work on Easter Monday. If you’re a Fredericton Transit user, you’ll have to find your own way in. If you have access to a car, you’ll drive in. Now, the question is, when you get downtown, will you have to put any money in the meter?

A quick check of the city’s website should provide an answer, right?

Well, not quite.

Let’s go and have a look at the city’s homepage:

You don’t see anything about city services on the holiday at all, except for a notice about the garbage being picked up on the holidays. So if the garbage collectors don’t get it off, what about the parking enforcement people? Let’s go check the parking section of their web page:

Information about all kinds of things relating to parking, but nothing about what days are free. Now, let’s use the search box on the top right corner of the page:

What will that bring us?

Oh, how about this?

Hmm, not promising. Maybe this search doesn’t work like Google:

And we get:

That isn’t the most helpful search results page. Instead of the page title, they show the file names. That probably wasn’t intentional, but maybe next time they should go with the second lowest bidder. Still, at least this way we’re warned in advance before we click on a PDF file.

As you can kind of tell, the top results are a series of press releases relating to hours around Christmas. The others are irrelevant. Let’s just try one more search before we give up:

Which gets us:

Some more results. Clicking on each one and reading it fully gives us our answer. Yes, it’s the one that I circled in red. I only found that after clicking through all the other ones. Let’s click on it and see what it says:

There you have it. That’s how “easy” it is to find out information about parking in downtown Fredericton.

Sorry about all the pictures, I hope you weren’t reading this on your phone on a pay-as-you-go data plan.

An open letter to Brunswick News: regarding your paywall

Posted by on 12 Jan 2012 | Tagged as: fail, suggestions

Dear Brunswick News,

How’s that paywall working for you? How does it feel to have put yourselves on the wrong side of the digital divide?

In case you haven’t figured it out, people are laughing at you. You seem to have forgotten that most of your product is available elsewhere on the Internet, for free. The only thing that isn’t available is the local news. Is that worth $20/month? Most people don’t seem to think so. Yes, the NY Times is also $20/month, however, you are not the NY Times. They don’t have nearly the same number of mistakes in their articles as you guys do.

For some reason, you think that I’ll be very interested in the goings-on of every town in the province. Does the Kings County Record still publish a list of everyone who hit a deer that week? Maybe, but it’s not worth $20 for me to find out.

Some might try to read into this a little further and try to come up with some kind of conspiracy theory. Are you trying to kill it so you can get more money from the government? Are you forcing the bundling to raise overall subscription numbers? Are you using your media monopoly to gouge us? Are you just dumb?

If you don’t take the paywall down, or make it $5/month, you’ll be in worse shape from now on. You had a monopoly on local news on the Internet. Now, you’ve taken it away. What will happen next? Will other media sources take over to fill the void? Probably. And when they do, we won’t need you any more.

Interesting to note that the obituary section is the only thing that still hasn’t been paywalled. You’ll soon be writing articles for your newspapers in there.

Where did the Fredericton Transit wi-fi go?

Posted by on 17 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: fail, Fredericton, transit

Where did the wi-fi go?
There was a lot of hype about it, but then, nothing. There are two reasons:

1. It wasn’t cheap. Costs weren’t made public, but I can’t imagine it would have been cheap to equip every bus with it. As Fredericton Transit doesn’t seem to care that much about passenger amenities/comfort, they just decided not to spend the money.

2. It didn’t really work that well. During the test period, they had a live webcam attached to one of the buses. As that was using the same connection as the wifi, the connection could be tested without having to go on that specific bus. If you watched it for any period of time, you’d see that the camera image wouldn’t update if the bus was travelling more than 60km/h. It also had reception issues on some areas on the north side, including Marysville. They may have been able to fix them, but that could have been expensive.

Sadly, that also means that there won’t be any real-time GPS-based updates. That system came with the wi-fi. For the time being, you’ll have to call the transit info line for real-time updates. (Of course, that line is closed for most of the morning and evening rush).

 

Fredericton Transit maintenance round-up

Posted by on 05 Jul 2011 | Tagged as: fail, Fredericton, transit

In case you haven’t heard, a gas tank fell off one of the buses the other day, which is causing people to question the maintenance of the fleet. Here are some pictures I’ve taken over the years in regards to maintenance issues with Fredericton Transit. Figure it would be good to have them all in one place.

We’ll start with the mismatched fonts on the rear door. It makes them look bad, but not bad enough to warrant repainting it:

 

Next, we have a seat that’s been repaired with garbage bags. They didn’t even have the decency to use duct tape:

 

If you’re going to stand on the bus, it’s always a good idea to make sure those grab bars are properly attached to the seats:

 

If the destination sign’s a little dark, you’ll sometimes find a hastily hand-written sign in the window:

I’ll keep posting them as I keep finding them. I wasn’t able to get a picture of the leaky windows as it didn’t really show up in the camera. maybe someday, I’ll get video of the rattling and clanging they make when they go over pot holes.

 

Is it time to drop the NB Capital Commission?

Posted by on 14 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: fail, Reviews

Now that the New Brunswick provincial budget consultations are in full swing, one thing that keeps getting picked on is the NB Capital Commission. It doesn’t really have much respect in the public eye for a few reasons:

The most obvious is the small mandate that the commission has. New Brunswickers were expecting a scaled down version of the National Capital Commission. They are in charge of museums, parks, festivals and the official buildings and grounds. In New Brunswick, the NBCC is in charge of a groundhog and a few signs. They are technically in charge of the official grounds but haven’t really done anything to improve them.

Their “crowning achievement” was supposed to be “Oromocto Ollie”, New Brunswick’s own groundhog who predicts the weather on February 2nd. They clearly had their hearts, but not their brains in it as they failed miserably:

  • Instead of acquiring a groundhog from captivity, they found a natural groundhog den on CFB Gagetown. The problem is that wild groundhogs hibernate until March. The master of ceremonies tried to thump on the hole to get him to come out, but Ollie just wanted to sleep in. One major component of a Groundhog Day ceremony is to actually have a groundhog that you can show off to the cameras.
  • If you want your groundhog to get any media play, you need to do the prediction early in the morning, so the rest of Canada will see it in the morning news cycle. Our NBCC ran it at 10am, well after all the other North American groundhogs made their predictions. This meant that it was only seen on the evening news, which by then, was old news.

Anyone driving anywhere near Fredericton will have noticed all the “Provincial Capital Region” signs. In fact, the capital region is so large, it consists of 1/6th of the land mass of the province. Not only is it large, but they placed a sign on every single road that crosses into it. This includes the poorly maintained rural roads. Imagine driving down a rutted, potholed road and seeing a gleaming new “Capital Region” sign while still being a 45 minute drive away from Fredericton. That image alone will cause most people to think it is a waste of money.

Maybe they will improve over time, but many people will just look at their failures and conclude that their yearly budget of $400,000 is an unnecessary expense. If they were able to do their job properly and have something tangible to show for it at the end, it might not get picked on so much.

Fredericton City Council sneaks in transit cut

Posted by on 22 Dec 2010 | Tagged as: fail, Fredericton, transit

Fredericton City Council used a sneaky and underhanded trick to deliver a cut in transit service to the Silverwood area. They snuck it in as a line item in their 2011 budget. This is probably why they didn’t release the budget documents until after the vote. The only way anyone could have found out about it was to have attended the “open” budget meetings. Even that would have been questionable as it may not have been mentioned at those meetings.

Even the transit commission was caught off guard, when asked about it, they replied with this:

Good day, it has not been finalized due to some confusion on councils
part, now would be the time to call your councillor and be very vocal
about not making any cuts to service. Call 460-2127 City Clerk’s Office
to find out who your councillor is and his number. Good luck

Everyone can appreciate that some runs may not have enough ridership to warrant service. This was the case with the Two Nations Crossing route. The big difference with that one was that the cut was pre-announced and fully debated in council.

Most of the budget debate has been about a statue. Not having a statue repaired may annoy some people, but it doesn’t affect peoples lives in the way that a transit cut would. People don’t rely on a statue to get to and from work. People don’t move to a neighbourhood based on the availability of a statue. People won’t have to buy a car if they suddenly lose access to a statue. Transit matters to a lot of people. It’s time that the City of Fredericton starts taking it seriously.

Update: 11:55am: Article edited to clarify the fact that the cuts are only for the Silverwood area.

Failure to engage: Fredericton’s 2011 Budget

Posted by on 20 Dec 2010 | Tagged as: fail, Fredericton, opengovernment

So how was Fredericton’s 2011 budget more open and transparent than the 2010 budget?

They pre-released details of the water & sewer portion of the budget. That’s it. That’s the big difference.

If you look at the minutes of the 2010 budget from last year, you’ll see a very detailed presentation that included line items for each department. Why couldn’t they release this before the vote for 2011?

If city council wants to be open and accountable, they actually need to be open and accountable. Fredericton’s city council has a major perception problem where people believe that it built up a giant wall so they can hide the incompetence of city employees. Whether this is actually true or not, is irrelevant because perception often matters more than truth.

Maybe they’ll get it right next year? It will be an election year after all. (no, I’m not running in 2012, stop asking). It’s time to get serious about openness and transparency

Review of social media use in NB Provinical election 2010

Posted by on 24 Sep 2010 | Tagged as: fail, Reviews

Was the New Brunswick election of 2010 the first election that made good use of social media?

No.

Social media (mainly Twitter and Facebook) were used, but they didn’t meet the expectations of the average voter who wanted to engage the candidates. The average voter wishes to be educated about the issues and interact with candidates by having them answer specific questions about the policies they are proposing. The technology to do this is here right now, we just aren’t using it properly. Some candidates did a great job at responding to questions on Twitter, however, most just used it as another broadcast medium.

One other problem with Twitter is the sheer amount of noise generated with the #nbvotes hashtag. Mostly partisan hackery, the noise made it difficult for people to follow active debates. Similar to a vuvuzela, each individual tweet wasn’t significant, but with hundreds of people tweeting and re-tweeting insignificant things, it became hard to hear the real conversation.

Some people could dismiss Twitter as a debating platform by claiming that 140 characters just isn’t enough for a proper debate, however, a candidate can provide a long-winded answer on a blog and reply to that user with the URL of the blog in the tweet.

The fact of the matter is that most of the candidates and parties have no interest in using social media properly. They prefer to do politics the old-fashioned way, with negative ads on TV and going door-to-door.

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