Review of TRA building replacement proposal

Posted by on 19 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Fredericton, landuse

Many people have been tired of looking at the old TRA building on Queen St. which currently looks like this: (that picture was from 2 years ago, it actually looks much worse now)

One group hopes to replace it with this:

TC Land Holdings (who are somehow related to PlazaCorp, the strip-mall developer) have filed an application to build this 32 unit apartment building on that site. Some might say that 32 units is a bit small, but the actual lot isn’t that big:

As you can see, it pretty much fills the entire lot, leaving only enough space for 14 parking spaces. There will be another 26 spaces located on the first floor of the building. Due to flooding concerns, there won’t be a basement.

Hopefully the project won’t get derailed by soil conditions (or the fact that it’s built on an old dump). This will be a great addition to the downtown and will bring in some much-needed residents. Some density advocates would wish for a larger building, but considering the technical issues, I think this is the best anyone could do.

Planning Advisory Council members will be voting on this on Wednesday, April 20th. It will then have to pass council at a later date, probably in May.

Update: Building is under construction. Here is the website that has some leasing information: http://www.westpointebytheriver.ca/ The prices aren’t listed, but the extra “e” on “pointe” implies that it will be expensive.

Legitimate weight loss product or scam?

Posted by on 18 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: suggestions

After losing 35 pounds myself, I thought I’d offer up some quick tips on whether or not the weight loss plan is a scam:

  • If you have to take an “herbal” supplement, it’s a scam. There is no evidence that the supplements do anything. The CBC busted one such operation recently.
  • If you don’t have to adjust the amount of food you eat, it’s a scam.
  • If you don’t have to keep track of what you eat, it’s a scam.
  • If it’s only available within the next 10 minutes on this special TV offer, it’s a scam.
  • If you see an ad on a mailbox or a telephone pole, it’s a scam.
  • If you can make money signing other people up on the program, it’s a scam.
  • If it involves the purchase of some gadget, it’s a scam.
  • If you have to buy the food from the weight loss provider, it isn’t necessarily a scam, but it does lock you in with them.

The key to proper weight loss is a combination of major lifestyle change and discipline. Some programs will help you out with guiding you to making better choices, but the discipline must come from within.

 

Fredericton Transit Master plan – How are they making out?

Posted by on 04 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Fredericton, transit

Been a while since anything about Fredericton Transit has shown up on this blog. In August 2008, Dillon Consulting released their report with 18 recommendations to be completed in the next five years. We’re halfway through the 5 years, let’s see how they did:

(from page 117 of report)

  1. ADOPT TRANSIT SERVICE STANDARDS – NO
  2. New Route to Two Nations Crossing / Cliffe Street – FAILED
  3. Service Frequency Improvements to maintain a minimum hourly service on all routes during their normal hours of operation – NO
  4. Modification of Route 216 to service Knowledge Park Drive – NO
  5. Increase service on Route 11 with introduction of a UNB U-Pass. – NO
  6. ESTABLISH NORTH SIDE TRANSFER POINT AT ST. MARY’S STREET AND MAPLE STREET – NO
  7. INCREASE AND IMPROVE SHELTERS – NO
  8. DEVELOP AN ENHANCED TRANSIT MARKETING PLAN – NO
  9. ADJUST FARES – YES
  10. EXPAND U-PASS – NO
  11. EXPLORE EMPLOYEE TRANSIT PASS PROGRAMS – NO
  12. CONSIDER NEW INDUSTRIAL SPECIAL TO ALLISON/GILLIS AREA – NO
  13. DEVELOP APPROPRIATE BUS TURNAROUNDS – NO
  14. EXPAND AND MODIFY KINGS PLACE TERMINAL – NO
  15. RELOCATE REGENT MALL TERMINAL – NO
  16. INITIATE REVIEW OF TRANSIT GARAGE/OPERATIONS CENTER – YES
  17. INITIATE DIAL-A-BUS REVIEW – YES
  18. INCREASE ACCESSIBILITY OF BUS SERVICE – NO

Out of eighteen action items, they successfully did three of them. That’s a grade of 16.67%. Of the three things they did, adjusting the fares actually raised revenue, the new transit garage was mostly Federal stimulus dollars and the dial-a-bus review cost $46,000. They also attempted to remove service to Silverwood, that plan was cancelled after much public outcry.

Fredericton City council has shown that they like to talk about being green and sustainable, yet can’t actually spend money on being green and sustainable. Many of these action items won’t cost much to implement, yet they don’t have the initiative or will to do them. The next municipal election is in 2012.

FibreOp Speed Increases

Posted by on 30 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

For the past month, Bell Aliant FibreOp customers in Fredericton have noticed an odd increase in their speed. The upload speed appeared to be the same as their download speed. In some cases, the upload speed was faster than the download speed. Some had speculated that they were doing large scale testing to see how symmetric internet service would impact the network on a whole.

According to this unverified post on Digital Home Canada, they will be making the new speeds official:

10/2 will become 15/15
25/5 will become 30/30
70/15 will become 70/30
The 170/30 plan will be staying the same.

This is clearly intended to be a great competitive advantage against Rogers. Rogers may not even be technically capable of matching those upload speeds. All indications are pointing to a future where more upload bandwidth will be required due to peer-to-peer networks and social media. FibreOp is clearly ahead of the curve. Has the spirit of NBTel come back? Do the managers at Bell Aliant actually understand the Internet? Hopefully Ma Bell won’t step in and kill it like they did with so many other innovations from NBTel (VibeVision, iMagicTV, etc).

E10 Fuel FAQ (for regular people)

Posted by on 28 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

E10 Gasoline is here. You may have seen people complain about it, but the complainers are usually old car collectors or racers. Here’s a FAQ for regular people:

I have a regular car/truck and fill the gas tank more often than once a month
No problem, just keep buying regular.

I have a lawnmower/snowblower/ATV/dirt bike
The only change you’ll need to make is to switch to premium (not plus) gasoline as that won’t have the additive. Your best bet is to find a station that has a separate hose for supreme. This may be harder as newer pumps have combined hoses.

What’s wrong with E10 in smaller engines?

E10 only has a shelf life of about 3 months. After that, it will degrade and plug up the engine.

What’s wrong with combined hoses?
The problem is when you buy a small amount of gas. The hose will be full of whatever the last person bought.

I can only find combined hoses, what do I do?
No problem, if you also own a car. Just select Premium on the pump, put 5L of gas in your car to flush out the hose first. Then, fill up your jerry can.

 

Will those daily-deal sites last forever?

Posted by on 21 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Reviews

Those daily deal sites have been getting a lot of buzz lately. There have been quite a few of them pop up lately. Some are locally oriented sites, others are larger ones who can afford a Superbowl ad. Will this be a shopping trend that stays?

Probably not. It is essentially an expensive way to advertise. A business owner will lose a significant amount of revenue (around 75%) on the deal items when the promotion is run. They will also have to deal with a surge in new customers, which may strain even more resources. As with every promotion, there is a cost, but the retailer will need to decide if the cost to acquire a new customer is worth it.

We will also have a problem with saturation of deals sites. Users will only be willing to pay attention to so many emails per day. The rest will get ignored, or eventually be moved into the spam folder.

How they should work: Instead of being a promotional tool, they should leverage the value of volume discounts. Imagine a retailer normally sells a product for $20. His cost is about $12/unit and he normally sells about 10 per week. His supplier sends him a weekly shipment of 10, but has a price break at 50 which would bring the cost down to $8/unit. By using a group purchasing site, he can sell them for $12 (of which he would get to keep $10 with $2 going to the website). He still makes a profit of $2/unit, and he has the opportunity to bring in new customers as a side benefit.

I’ll admit now that I may be wrong about this, but there have been many business models that stopped working once the novelty wears off.

A review of sandwich boards in downtown Fredericton

Posted by on 14 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Fredericton

There has been quite a bit of talk about sandwich boards being an issue in downtown Fredericton. Some people find them annoying, others consider them a hazard, yet most people just ignore them. Here are some examples of signs and how they are placed:

Series of 3 sandwich board signs

Here, we see three of them placed right next to the building, generally out of the way, only partially intruding onto the width of the sidewalk. Most of the sandwich boards are like this.

 

This one is particularly bad as it is really short. If you aren’t looking where you’re going, you could very easily trip over this one. People who text while they walk are most at risk with this one. Note the footprints in the snow and see how that sign goes right over the ones on the edge.

 

This one was the worst one I saw, it’s right in the middle of the sidewalk. Yes, it’s a wide sidewalk, but does it really have to be in the middle?

 

This is the best one I saw. It’s out of the way between a telephone pole and a tree. The store owners solved the visibility problem with balloons.

The simplest solution is to make all the sandwich boards go in the space between the sidewalk and the street. That way, they’re out of the way and the store owners will still get some visibility.

Why NB municipalities are demanding municipal reform

Posted by on 07 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Fredericton, NB Municipal Reform

Declining unconditional grants lead to budget cuts and resentment of nearby communities who “freeload” off the larger centres.

Here’s a chart that shows the percentage of the City of Fredericton’s budget that comes from the province:

This leads to changing attitudes:

1992 – Sure, go ahead and use our rinks, the more the merrier

2011 – That’ll be $685, don’t like it? Move to the city!

Planning Advisory Committee drinking game

Posted by on 21 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: Fredericton

I once attended a Fredericton Planning Advisory Committee. Let’s just say it was an interesting experience. Unfortunately, the City of Fredericton doesn’t stream the meetings online so you’ll have to physically go to the meeting and sneak your alcohol past the security guard.

Take one good sized gulp every time you hear one of the following:

  • “This is a family neighbourhood”
  • “We’re not against poor people, we just don’t think it’s the “right type” of development for this neighbourhood”
  • “I know you are legally required to approve this, but you should deny it anyway”
  • “I’ve lived on this street for over 20 years”
  • “That type of development is only for places like downtown”
  • “That type of development has no business being downtown”
  • “Why can’t this go on the North side, where the rest of the poor people live?”
  • “I approve the project in principle, as long as these design changes are implemented”
  • “We don’t want to increase density in this neighbourhood”
  • “They would be able to see me through the window getting dressed”
  • “It will destroy the character of the neighbourhood”
  • “It will block out the sun”
  • “That old house has to be 80 years old, therefore it is historic and must not be torn down”

There. That should make your decision to get involved in municipal politics that much easier.

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.

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