Tuesday 29 May 2012

Confusion Corner redesigned and unconfused

The infamous Confusion Corner -- an intersection that makes you cut through a parking lot or down back lanes to get to where you want to go. The thriving and walkable Osborne Village comes to an abrupt end at this tangle of traffic, and the integration of the Rapid Transit station into the fabric of the community is all but impossible as long as it remains in it's current configuration.

In February the blogger at The Cold Cold Ground devised a new plan for Osborne's confusion corner; essentially a big round-about. Now you know I love my roundabouts, however there will still be a great deal of traffic flowing around this bout, and therefore it still presents a problem.

In the comments of ekim's post, I wrote

Excellent! I applaud your initiative in taking a crack at improving that area. It would be great if a number of people sketched out their designs, and had a brain-storming to work through the best aspects. And.. made city hall listen some how.
Well I thought I should put my crayons where my mouth is (yum) and take a crack at redesigning the intersection and unleashing the ultrawalkable-transit-oriented-urbanity of the Village.

Here's the nut of the problem: you have a great deal of traffic passing through the area, cutting off Osborne Village from anything south including the Rapid Transit station. Much, if not most of that traffic is going straight across from Donald to Pembina, or Pembina to Donald. Anyone wanting to get to or from the rapid transit station has to cross this traffic.

My solution is relatively simple: get rid of the traffic.

The "how" may seem far fetched to you, but keep in mind that cities do this all the time. Calgary is doing it as we speak. That is: build a tunnel. Get that Donald to Pembina traffic underground so that it can bypass the intersection without causing traffic jams, and creating an inhospitable environment for pedestrians. The details of getting it underground need to be worked out, but I envision an end result like this:

I need to rework the tunnel entry points, but the gist is that the outside lanes break off to feed Osborne St. and Corydon Ave, while everything else boots happily along underground. What used to be eastbound Donald St. would become a 2-way street and rebranded Corydon Ave up until the point that the traffic from Pembina rejoins it.

All you are left with at the former crazy corner is an ordinary four-way intersection: the corner of Corydon and Osborne. How iconic would that be? What used to be a big web of crisscrossing traffic could become the most in-demand restaurant and patio spot in the city. Two of the best urban neighbourhoods in Winnipeg would be linked through this intersection. The only traffic passing through would be traffic that wants to go down Corydon or Osborne. The impatient suburbanites racing home to Waverly West from downtown are nowhere to be seen.

Aside from the part about tunneling underground, this wouldn't be that hard to do. All of the roads are essentially in the same place. Donald is re-purposed as Corydon, and McMillan Ave is basically the same, only less fucked up. No buildings would have to be torn down except perhaps to allow for the off ramps where Pembina and Donald are fed underground. Meanwhile the wasteland south of McMillan would be much more accessible, opening up the possibility of true transit-oriented development around the RT depot.

Yes, this would cost money, but just this past month City Hall decided to go off-schedule and spend $300 million on new roads in parts of the city where people don't even live. If the brains at the City of Winnipeg were inclined to build a tunnel, they could build a tunnel. They just might have to delay the next phase of freeways in canola fields.

... the corner of Corydon and Osborne...imagine it!

And to finish off this blog post, here is a photo that I took in New York of what I think is the Holland Tunnel:

Sunday 27 May 2012

The ticket to attracting better candidates

Have you ever voted in an election for the person you disliked the least? Does it seem sometimes that there are no good choices on the ballot?

In the last civic election I voted for a real estate agent because there was so little to choose from. The field was so bad that the incumbent won easily even though most people agree that he's doing a terrible job. In the last Manitoba provincial election your choices were somebody with no fiscal responsibility, and somebody else promising to be just as irresponsible. Only one person has stepped forth to vie for the leadership of the opposition party after the role was vacated after an embarrassing loss to a party that's running the province into the ground.

At every level of government voting rates are low and trending lower, because there are no inspiring candidates. Voting is an unpleasant task where you have to pinch your nose while checking the box.

While in a twitter conversation with Luc Lewandoski I came up with the best idea ever to resolve this conundrum: Give politicians free Jets tickets! They are a valuable commodity that is sure to attract quality candidates to the political arena. It is a perk that could perk up the field in any political race. The job may be thankless, and you may be scrutinized and criticized at every turn, but tickets to the hottest show in town help to make it all worth while.

The best part: it won't cost taxpayers a dime. Private corporations can provide all the tickets. All we need to do is encourage them. Let's send out the word to all the companies out there with Corporate boxes and season tickets: invite politicians to Jets games! Lots of them! ALL OF THEM!! If they all go to Jets games, then the playing field will still be level.

Let's implement this plan immediately.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Barking dogs and squawking suburbanites

Sometimes I think maybe I'm just crazy. A story on CTV today, presented in a matter of fact manner by Caroline Barghout, makes absolutely no sense to me.

In the story, residents of an apartment block are complaining about barking bogs. The lady says she can't get any sleep. What makes this special is that the dogs are police dogs in a police compound, so apparently it's news worthy, because unlike dogs owned by individuals, police dogs aren't supposed to bark in public.

What makes this especially stupid is that the police dogs have been there for years, whereas the apartment building is so new that it's still under construction. So somebody moves into an apartment on the edge of an industrial park of the outskirts of the city one week ago, and they complain about barking dogs that were there long before they moved in? Somehow this makes sense to other people. I can't imagine the outcry when some industry tries to expand in the industrial park and makes some noise or smell or something.

What makes this especially especially stupid is that a new indoor compound is planned for the dogs and it is scheduled to begin construction this summer, therefore these residents of this apartment block built on cheap land on the edge of an industrial park will only have to endure this hardship with the barking dogs for maybe half a year. Yet that's not good enough. Something needs to be done now! After all, the problem is so acute that the people in the brand new apartments built on cheap land on the edge of an industrial park have to close their windows in the evening!!

City Councillor Russ Wyatt agrees, saying "those apartments will go to the dogs if they don't find a new location for the K9 unit." Wow, Russ. That pun was so fucking brilliant. I have no idea how your mind is able to produce such a spectacularly clever play on words. Clearly your intellect is so far superior to mine that your veiwpoint on this issue must be the correct one.

The police meanwhile are working on an interim solution until the new facility is ready. If they spend even a cent on this interim measure, it's a grievous waste of taxpayer money in my mind. I'm beginning to not trust my mind, however.

Is this lady crazy or am I?
If somebody came to me with this story -- "hey there's this lady who moved into an apartment in an industrial park one week ago and has to close her windows because of barking dogs" -- I, as an unpaid blogger who writes about fruit, windows, and how to draw a parrot, would have told them to screw off. It's not worth my time. I'm busy writing a post about how my corn chips break when I try to scoop salsa with them.

Yet this became a feature story on CTV news because a producer thought it was of such importance that it required an on-location report, and now I'm writing about it because I'm in a personal crisis situation. I've realized that my perspective on issues is completely distorted, and that my mind is therefore not functioning properly. I am frantically googling my symptoms to see if there are medications that can help. If anybody else out there has experienced symptoms like mine, please let me know! I'm looking for a support group -- anything -- that will help me cope with this mental disability I have suddenly discovered. Thank you.

Friday 18 May 2012

Around This Town

Supposing you do a periodic post about different things going on in Winnipeg .. what do you call it?  What I do is I hijack the name of a kick-ass song by a kick-ass Winnipeg band, Grand Analog, and present to you:

Around This Town


Walter Krawec has made the decision to shut down his One Man Committee blog. As far as blogging goes, Walt made a big impact in short span of time, and his contributions to the Winnipeg 'sphere will be missed.

I'll move him down to my "Are they alive?" blog roll just to see if it springs back to life at some point.

A marriage in the bloggosphere

The Anybody Want A Peanut Congratulatory Response Team (CRT) had a meeting this week and came to a decision, with a near-unanimous vote, to acknowledge the wedding of long-time Winnipeg blogger Shaun Wheeler (a.k.a. Conceited Jerk) to his wonderful wife Jillian.

Please join us in wishing them a long and wonderful life together.

Princess and Ivy

Speaking of hooking up and having families, a pair of endangered Peregrine Falcons are back downtown, and have become very slightly less endangered having produced four yet-to-be-named chicks. Watch countless hours of the little fuzzballs developing into fearsome predators on the live web-cam HERE.

Clean-up day

Last Saturday I helped pick up litter along Bishop Grandin Greenway. I say "litter", but that includes TWO couches!

The weather was nice and the turn-out was good, and like the web site says a clean trail is a happy trail.

More photos here.

City Circus

Well, Black Progressive Marty Rod has a new show!! (I should clarify that Marty is NOT the Black Rod. Wink.)  Anyhow, in addition to his Great Canadian Talk Show podcast, Marty Gold has found a new home on Shaw TV, with a show called City Circus. Check the web site for times and details.

One of the best things about the old TGCTS were the in-depth interviews with the mayor, as well as people that often otherwise wouldn't have much of a voice. I hope to see more interviews in this new series. Good luck with the show!


Although I will be nowhere near as regular as James Hope Howard (insert fiber joke here) and his Man Links Weekly, I do hope to be a little more active in writing these little local composite posts. Being pressed for time this week this is the best I could do. Have a great long weekend!

I leave you with, what else? Grand Analog!

Sunday 13 May 2012

Winnipeg buildings: a random trend

Let's play a game!

In the picture below are photos of 8 buildings in Winnipeg. The first person to correctly match up  photos with the names of the buildings wins! Wins what? Humm. Good question. Lessee here ... how about a set of glass drink coasters that say "THIRSTY" on them?

Here is the picture:

Here are the buildings, in no particular order:

A) Asper Institute
B) Buhler Welcome Centre
C) Youth For Christ - Centre for Youth Excellence
D) Manitoba Hydro Tower
E) BGBX Condos
F) Winnipeg Birth Centre
G) 363 Broadway
H) North Centennial Recreation and Leisure Facility

I may need to exclude Christian Cassidy from this contest just to be fair to everybody else. In fact I wouldn't have even known about one or two of these buildings were it not for a blog post he did a while back.

In 2003 the Smith Carter designed Asper Institute was built. In addition to a unique shape, the building sported unique multi-coloured panels in a random pattern. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it at first. It was a little bit retro and futuristic at the same time, and a little bit ugly too, but it was interesting and I'm all for interesting buildings.

In the years that followed another building got built or renovated with multi-coloured panels in a random pattern, then another and another.

There is a definite trend here, and once again I'm not sure what to make of it. What will we think of these buildings in 30 or 50 years? Will we look at these building and say to ourselves "what were they thinking back then?" If we try to tear one down, will people scream "No, you can't do that! That building is an excellent example of early millenium post-modern randomization!" How will they endure, style-wise?

Also, is this just a Winnipeg thing, or is this a wide-spread trend in exterior building design? Maybe some of you who travel more than I could answer that question. When I was in Montreal I stumbled upon this building, the Palais des Congrès de Montréal (as well as a riot, but that's another story):

.. so maybe it's not just us.

Maybe the trend is already waning. The Langside Terrace House by Syverson Monteyne Architecture was supposed to look like this...

... but they ended up building this:

So a final question: after this trend has run its course, what is in store for us next? We had uniform coloured panels in the 50s, mirrored glass in the 60s, exposed aggregate in the 70s, metal and granite in the 80s, nothing was built in Winnipeg in the 90s so I don't know what the trend was then, and now we have these multi-coloured panels. What can we look forward to next?

Monday 7 May 2012

A thing called Keeyask

A belated follow-up to the earlier post $1.1 Billion deficit might not be our biggest problem. In that post I discussed some of the enormous risks facing Manitoba Hydro:

  • over 11 billion dollars in investments in northern Hydro megaprojects, almost exclusively to sell power to a very weak export market in the US
  • a track record of escalating costs
  • a development with the Cree Nations partners that, fairly or not, places the entire burden of risk on Hydro while sharing potential profits of the Keeyask project.
I'm going to dive a little deeper into this Keeyask thing here. In addition to the Joint Keeyask Development Agreement that I talked about last time, there are Adverse Effects Agreements that layout the process for compensating ... hey ... wait! Where are you going? It's not that boring. Really. Stick around!

Okay. As I was saying ... there are these agreements. There are four of them -- one for each of Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation, and York Factory First Nation. Their purpose is "to provide appropriate replacements, substitutions or opportunities to offset unavoidable Keeyask Adverse Effects on practices, customs and traditions integral to the distinctive cultural identity" of the First Nations.

I don't want to lose your attention again so let's get straight to the money: how much will these replacements, substitutions and opportunities cost Manitoba rate payers? Well, it's complicated, but let's start with $7 million. That's not compensation. That's the cost of constructing and furnishing buildings to administer the compensation.

There are two buildings: the TCN Keeyask Centre, and the Fox Lake Gathering Centre in Gillam. Both serve purposes other than administration, for example storage, displaying artifacts, conducting educational seminars, etc..

The Keeyask Centre looks something like this, and is budgeted for $4 million:

I believe this beauty, designed by Friesen Tokar Architects, might be the Fox Lake Gathering Centre that was agreed to in the plan, except that its cost is $7.5 million, not the $3 million that was budgeted:

Okay, moving on ...

There are numerous "offsetting programs" funded under these Adverse Effects Agreements: language programs, educational programs, grave site restoration programs, youth wilderness traditions programs, etc...  There is an access program for TCN that funds up to 52,000 miles of air transportation for hunting, fishing and trapping each year.

There are budgets for this. On an annual basis for the life of the project, Tataskweyak Cree Nation is funded for $2,124,000 in 2008 dollars, indexed for inflation, with any unspent amounts carried forward.War Lake gets $266,000 each year. Fox Lake gets $710,000 per year, decreasing over time to $100,000 per year. York Factory First Nation gets total funding that adds up to $8,520,000 discounted present value.

In addition to all this there are other aspects to these agreements, including lump sum amounts for Residual Compensation:
Tataskweyak Cree Nation: $3,000,000
War Lake First Nation: $255,000
Fox Lake Cree Nation: $1,581,000
York Factory First Nation: $490,000

There are other clauses that allow for additional losses from traditional activities, other amounts for water levels above or below normal levels ($4,500 per foot per day, adjusted for inflation) and so on.

So what to make of all this? Certainly if you were adding up the costs of lost revenue from hunting and trapping on the 45 square kilometers of flooded land, it would be a miniscule amount by comparison. However intangibles are extremely hard to place a value on -- I know because I've done it in a previous life -- but also there is value in building willing partners with the First Nations.

Whether you feel this is way over the top or fair compensation, it is a cost to Hydro. These tens of millions of dollars will add to the burden, and represent thousands more megawatts of power to be exported to a weak US energy market.

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