Election 2012

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Beware of bad promises: Traffic Calming

Posted by on 29 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: Election 2012, Fredericton

One of the recurring topics on Fredericton council candidates’ web sites is the issue of speeding. Seems that it’s a problem everywhere and candidates are promising all kinds of solutions. One must be careful what you wish for, or else you may get it, and it won’t be what you asked for. Let’s take this abomination as an example:

This is the Adams St. Traffic Circle. It’s not a roundabout, it’s a failabout. It was put in to address the concerns of a few loud complainers. It’s too bad it doesn’t actually work and may even make things worse. Although it’s hard to tell from the picture, it’s not quite in the centre. This is presumbly so the snowplough can make it past. This also means that when going in one direction, cars don’t actually have to slow down. In the other direction, cars have to slow to a near stop in order to make it through. Many (including transit buses) just go around it the wrong way. In fact, many speeders just go through it the wrong way anyway.

How do we prevent that?

First of all, you can promise to restore the police force’s traffic unit. They used to have three cars that just handed out tickets and responded to problem areas. Now, the cops just rotate the traffic jobs. You can also promise to listen to them when they do complain about speeding traffic.

Next, you will need to use science to prove that there is a speeding problem. Traffic counters also record speed so if the average speed is higher than the speed limit, then it has been proven that there is a real problem. The next step is for city staff to come up with a design of the calming measure (such as speed bumps). The citizens will then have to go to every house on the street and ask them if they want a speed bump in front of their house. If they can get enough people to agree, speed bumps will be put in.

This is exactly how it was done on McGibbon St. Science proved that there was a problem, the residents acted on it and got high-speed speed bumps installed. These allow cars to go over them at 40km/h, and don’t impact emergency vehicle response times as much as the low-speed ones.

Another idea is to install bike lanes. These will make the road look narrower and slow down the traffic.

If you do hear a lot of complaints about speeding traffic, remember that knee-jerk reactions don’t always work.


How not to lose a municipal election in Fredericton

Posted by on 24 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: Election 2012, Fredericton

Here is yet another municipal election. We have a number of fresh faces, and a number of the same-old faces. Here are a few tips based on observations I’ve seen:

1. Know your demographic: old people

They have the highest turnout rate of any municipal election. They don’t know how to use a computer and the only way you’ll reach them is by knocking on their door. Make sure you promise enough things that they will like. This is probably where most of your votes will come from.

2. Know your demographic: Young people

The next highest turnout rate is young people. They are the ones using social media. You’ll need to reach out to them. And by reach out, I don’t mean just getting on social media, you’ll need to find people and encourage them to share your message. Easier said than done.

The other great challenge you’ll have with them is that they are disillusioned with politics. You are going to need to convince them that you will actually change things for the better.

3. Don’t be vague.

I’ve been looking at a number of campaign web sites. I don’t see a lot of details. I see things like “I believe in a strong downtown” and “I believe in transparency”. What exactly are you going to do to “strengthen” downtown? Change the zoning to allow taller buildings? Tax breaks for high density residential buildings? Diagonal parking? Elections for other levels of government usually have very specific promises. Municipal elections should be the same.

4. Fredericton is behind the times. Use that to your advantage.

Big city trends usually take a few years before they trickle down to places like Fredericton. For us, this is not a bad thing. This gives us the ability to look into the future. This is especially important when it comes to things like housing trends. Larger cities are seeing younger people want to move to higher density neighbourhoods where they will be able to walk to many of the places they want to go. Make sure your voters are aware of this and how it will benefit them (hint: lower taxes)

5. You won’t be able to stop sprawl.

The previous paragraph mentioned a trend to move to the cities. This will not stop sprawl. It will slow it down, but you can’t stop it. If you do manage to get elected, any attempts at stopping sprawl will just push it out of city limits. This will mean that you double-failed as you will decrease city revenues while increasing air pollution. Nobody wants that.

Oh, and if you make it seem like car-owning suburban single-family home dwellers are the enemy, you won’t get elected. Remember Toronto? Please don’t make that mistake (not that I’m saying that any of the current candidates are anywhere close to Rob Ford).