visit Kingston this September! So much going on.
In a previous post I was less than complimentary about the lukewarm efforts Kingston has implemented to become a bicycle friendly community. Full disclosure: I am ambivalent about the whole idea, as for the most part policy seems to have been outsourced to car hating activist led single issue groups, but given that the city has embraced the spirit, if not the practice, perhaps they might consider a few easily implemented ideas to further the vision.
Covered bicycle shelters. Assuming the city means to increase the number of cyclists, ought it to prioritize covered bicycle shelters? Failure to consider, let alone implement, such an easy and relatively cheap* piece of infrastructure does bring their commitment under suspicion. Nearly every European city of similar size to Kingston prioritizes multi-modal transit, and includes covered bicycle racks proximate to bus and regional rail lines. Continue reading
In light of our ‘fiscally responsible’ ‘onservative government shovelling money out the door for various infrastructure projects, the failure of McGinty’s ehealth ontario initiative, and of course the impending cornucopia of largess known as Obamacare being offered up in the USA, it is worth re-reading Guns, Fraud, and Big Numbers in Canada to remind ourselves of just how often our political masters screw up basic math:
The following essay won the Letter of the Week award on 2004-02-24 at Mark Steyn’s web site, http://www.marksteyn.com . In honour thereof, Mr. Steyn graciously sent me a copy of his “The Face of the Tiger”, autographed: “Congratulations. A Great Letter.” ]
My Fellow Canadian ~
I once read an excellent Isaac Asimov non-fiction essay on really big numbers. Humans are in general really bad at understanding big numbers. Because of my math / science / engineering background, I’m maybe a bit better than average, but I’m no Asimov. I have though learned a few ways to help me better understand big numbers, so that I can better deal with them when I need to. This essay shows how some of those methods work.
The initial Government of Canada estimate for the gun registry database system was $1 million. Technically, I think that’s probably a bit low. Based on my on three decades of work in the field of distributed multi-user database transaction processing systems like the registry, and on some systems I’m currently working on which are of that type, I think $3 million would have been a better estimate.
If someone from the Government of Canada can provide me with a simple accounting showing some component of the system that I’ve missed, I’d be more than happy to adjust my analysis of the situation to take that data into account. My current analysis is based on the numbers I have collected from the public media over the last few years.
Given how important it is for state monopolies to serve citizens to the highest possible ethical standard, let’s throw in a factor of three-ish over my base estimate and call it $10 million, to be as careful as possible.
Now, say you had such a $10 million contract with some customers. And then, say you spent three times that: $30 million. Does it occur to you that your customers (in this case, we citizens) might be, oh, shall we say, somewhat angry? Ok, let’s say it’s another factor of three: $90 million. How are your customers doing now? Fine. Let’s throw in another factor of three, so we’re now up to $270 million. How angry are your customers now? In more primitive times than we live in, would you still be alive? But wait, there’s more. How much would we pay for another factor of three? Oh, about $810 million. Say, that’s interesting, the gun registry database system has, according to the CBC, cost $750 million.
It didn’t cost 3 times as much. Or 3 times 3 times as much. Or 3 times 3 times 3 times as much. It cost 3 times 3 times 3 times 3 times as much.
My few readers will have noted by now that Junior travels a wee bit – perhaps more than is strictly necessary. In my roamings, I have had on occasion the pleasure opportunity to travel on Canada’s own VIA Rail. For uninitiated, VIA Rail is a passenger rail service wholly owned by the taxpayers of Canada, known in the parlance as a Crown Corporation. In this regard it is not unlike AMTRAK (USA), or any of a dozen or more European state-owned passenger rail services. Thus it is run largely for the benefit of its employees and where passengers are noticed at all, it is with at best diffidence and more often with sufferance.
In comparing modes of transport it is often difficult to find true comparisons of merit, since the modes differ significantly enough as to pose problems finding commonalities. Except where it comes to service. Leaving aside private automobiles, where the service offered to the passengers is diffident at best and downright awful at times (particularly in Junior’s chariot), passengers in Canada have two options – fly or ride the Iron Horse. Edward the Corgi has heard my theory before – but for those who have never heard it – thus. On the whole and with evidence of my own eyes, Air Canada is miserably incompetent, whilst VIA Rail is cheerfully incompetent.
09 March 2010:
Back in Montreal for the first time in many years (notwithstanding transiting through Dorval) and it seems to me on first glance as though that while the city structure is clearly a little distressed, what with the potholes and dodgy sidewalks (mind you, KTown can offer craters as awful as the best of them), there is much more excitement now then when I last called it home. Maybe I am wrong, but I didn’t see too many storefronts for let, I did see plenty of sharply dressed folks and everyone seems fairly cheerful. Despite my shocking neglect of the place, Montreal still remains my favourite Canadian city. At Wednesday night dinner comfortably ensconced in the window and indulging in a bit of people watching, I did notice that an inordinate number of vehicles flowing south on Stanley were of the Mercedes, Audi, Land Rover, BMW variety – perhaps indicative of a local economic confidence which seems to be ignored in the rest of Canada. I suppose it is easy to overlook Montreal especially in afterglow of the Olympics and the ‘me first’ attitude of Tranna. Thursday night off to Weinsteins and Gavinos for a meal, and then down the block to Three Brasseurs for a couple of beer, before heading back to the hotel.
How to get there:
- VIA RAIL: I am more and more convinced that this is the best way to travel to Montreal – no headaches with traffic, no time wasted looking for or paying extortionate rates for parking etc.
- By Car: If you must insist on taking your vehicle, then of course Montreal is well serviced by several major highways leading into the city. The roads are a bit rough in places – comes from overbuilding the infrastructure and then neglecting it for decades I suppose. Please note that there isn’t actually much of a bypass around the city – especially to the south.