Archive for January, 2006

Port Mann Toll Booth Woes

It’s a story that has been around for a long time: twinning the Port Mann Bridge and adding a toll booth to it.

Now that I commute to Surrey every day, last Saturday’s Vancouver Sun article, about the possibility of a $2 toll on my new bridge, raised my blood pressure up a few notches.

The silver lining is that the toll booths won’t add minutes to an already severely boring drive:

Motorists using that road obtain and mount small electronic transponders on their windshields.

Electronic sensors over the highway pick up the signals from the devices which transmit each motorists’ individual vehicle account number and vehicle class — car, light truck or heavy truck.

The information is fed into a computer which can debit a prepaid toll account, or a bank account, or apply a charge to a credit card.

If you don’t have a transponder, a photo is taken of your licence plate and you are sent a bill for the amount owed.

The article, however, pointed out that commuters would go elsewhere:

It is suggested that the application of tolls would have the effect of driving down overall volume of vehicles — with as many as 25 per cent of car drivers choosing other routes to get to the north side of the region, including the Alex Fraser and Pattullo Bridges.

So much for the environmental aspects.

Transit is not an option for me.

Oh, don’t look so shocked. I’m not one of those rightwing anti-environmental nuts or a fanatic soccer mom glued to her SUV. I’ve been through the whole I’ll-be-a-martyr-for-the-environment thing.

After years of living in Vancouver to attend UBC, I decided it was time to stop throwing money at a dorm in the city and return to my parents’ rent-free shelter during my last year of university. I trudged through five hour commutes every day for a year because I believed mass transportation was the only morally correct thing to do.

A commute to Cloverdale, on the other hand, would involve a hopelessly convoluted journey, many hours long. On some days, I wouldn’t even make the last bus of the night. Then I would have to walk through a stretch of road through a forest in the dark. Yum!

Some people argue that one should live close to where they work. These people are unrealistic and thoughtless. No, I can’t move to Surrey. Yes, I would love to continue working five minutes from home. No, it’s not possible. As my current museum’s funds trickle away, I must seek greener pastures. Damn that I have to pollute them on my way there.

So I’m stuck with the tolls. The Albion Ferry takes too long, the route there goes over the hopeless Pitt Meadows Bridge. The Patullo Bridge goes through New Westminster, that inferno of traffic high drama. Both bridges are, furthermore, too out of my way.

What it all boils down to is, I need to find a job with the Vancouver Art Gallery. A comfortable trip on the exceptional Westcoast Express and I’ll be in heaven. That’s the real solution to my Port Mann woes.

If the sweater fits . . .

I caught a rebroadcast of Bill Richardson interviewing Meryn Caddell on his CBC radio show. Meryn is most famous for the minor spoken-word pop-song hit “The Sweater”. Yeah, you’ve heard it. You know you have.

So, what’s Meryn doing these days? Teaching composition at UBC. And, oh yes, transitioning from female to male.

But for the details, just read Meryn’s blog.

The Economist Names Vancouver Best for Biznass

The Economist has ranked Vancouver as the number one city for business travelers in its 2006 Business Trip Index. The index took into account factors such as cost, climate, crime rate, proximity to airport, and the availability of good hotels. Rounding out the top three on the list were Calgary and Toronto, in spots two and three respectively. Apparently Canadian cities fared so well due to having “the right mix of feelgood factors without being too expensive”.

To me “feelgood factor” sounds like it could be the name of an upcoming NBC reality series.

Gimme an H & M and M & S

This is just a little wishlist of mine –

An H&M : A fabulous women/men/maternity/kids store with a hip and quality line every season. Ironically – it’s the wonky exchange rates – shopping was cheaper in the U.K. with the same black v-neck three-quarter sleeves sweater costing £7.99, but $19.99 plus tax in Toronto. Still, my first foray to H&M in the Eaton Centre back in September was a smashing success yielding finds like my favourite green corduroy waistcoat ($79.90) and a nice green v-neck sweater ($19.90). There are three locations in GTA (Toronto, Mississauga, and Scarborough) and one in Oakville. But then, in the year that I have been in Vancouver I’ve learned maybe H&M is a store whose sensibility would be overlooked for yoga stores with over-priced gear and the trendy places with over-priced rag-like clothing.

While having an H&M here would be pretty convenient – and dangerous on my pocketbook – there is a perk to there not being one in the city in that this shoestring shopper who makes semi-annual Toronto trips can pick up clothes that can’t be found here….

An M&S : What ever happened to all of the Marks and Spencer stores in Canada? During recent reminiscing, I realized that we had M&S stores as recently as about 7 years ago. I don’t miss the bizarrely conservative clothing but I do miss the food! In the U.K., this product/label-whore went ga-ga in the M&S food hall where the displays were aesthetically homogenous with rows upon rows of their own label and anything your heart could desire could be found in a cozy market hall half the size of a regular Safeway. Even though M&S is touted as higher-end, I have seriously gotten used to Safeway’s ridiculous prices to embrace M&S if it would really make a comeback here.

The Pickton Circus comes to New Westminster

I forgot to bring my camera.

By 7:15 am, the news trucks were set up, the camera crews were setting up, and the New West Courthouse was a lot busier than usual.

At noon, I went back there, and Begbie Square, in front of the courthouse, was busier yet, mostly news crews. The circus atmosphere was increased by a tent: an EZ-up sheltering a podium, apparently ready for some news conference or another, judging by the heavy-duty video cameras in an orderly semicircle around it.

I probably missed the peak of activity, but the dozens of demonstrators were down to about a dozen demonstrators, and demonstration is an odd word for it. They put on a show of sorts, but to me their purpose did not suggest people at a political event, but rather a November 11th crowd. The purpose was remembrance.

And thus onto the voir dire, meaning “see and say,” meaning the court figures out if evidence is admissible before it goes in front of a jury. This part could take months. I hope to sit in on the proceedings tomorrow, though it may still be a full house. And I’ll bring my camera.

Update: body at City Hall

Okay the CBC’s website finally has some information about the body found at City Hall this morning [cbc]. They’ve closed the park by the Hall and roped off some of the area but they’re being tight lipped about what it might be.

Spokesperson Const. Tim Fanning says investigators from the major crime unit still don’t have any information as to the identity of the woman. “I can tell you at this point, it appears to be suspicious, that it is a woman. But as far as race, age, any other information, we don’t have that at this point.”

Body at City Hall

Apparently a body, dead I presume, has been found on the steps of City Hall. My girlfriend who listens to the CBC radio informed me of this via MSN. I can’t find any news on it on the ‘net yet so this might be a breaking exclusive for the internet.

If I find out more information I’ll let you know.

The New Normal

In defiance of the seemingly neverending rain, we went for a walk today on the Ambleside Seawall. This was the first time I’ve walked along it – usually when I’m in that area, I’m on my bike and they don’t allow such things on their seawall. We looked out the window, saw a lull in the rain and took our chances by going out. It actually didn’t rain for the first half of our walk. When we turned to head back to where we started from, it began to drizzle.

I never really understood the number of different words for rain. I used to just think in terms of ‘rain’ and ‘not rain.’ Since coming to the west coast, however, I’ve learned the difference between rain, drizzle, showers, a cloudburst, pouring, mist, sprinkling, torrent, deluge, and pelting, among many others.

Those who have lived here much longer than myself have assured me that this is not normal winter weather for this climate, but I have to wonder if these extreme weather conditions are becoming the new normal. If it keeps raining all summer I might have to rethink our move here.

I’ll worry about that should it actually happen. But it really does make me wonder.

The media circus is moving back in town

I saw on the CBC [cbc] website today that the Robert Pickton trial is set to start on Monday after four years. We all remember the images of heavy machinery digging through Pickton’s pig farm and the CSI like forensic team from the VPD/RCMP digging through it. Pickton’s crimes seem to be so widespread throughout the lower mainland, and since there’s still no official word on who was buried at the farm they’re almost infinite.

He’s currently up against 27 counts of murder, though like everything in the case that number is somewhat nebulus, and may continue to rise as it did in May 2005. While Canadian media laws are far more constrictive than American ones there is still the potential for this to turn into a media circus. There’s nothing for headlines and newspaper sales like a trial, save perhaps a tornado, and about the only thing the Province and Sun are cursing right now is that Pickton isn’t some sort of attractive jet setting millionaire ala American Pyshco.

Sunshine tease

Oh Vancouver, you keep teasing us into thinking we’re going to have a sunny day. Take Wednesday morning for example, when the day started with a spectacular sunrise of pale pinks and orange hues. Then the real weather set in within an hour. Today you did the same thing, showing us sunshine to start the day and then walloping us with more rain. At least you changed your mind again in the afternoon and threw us a little more of those golden rays. Promise me tomorrow will be sunny again, okay?

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