Archive for November, 2011

Letter to the Editor

UPDATE: the letter was published, with the StarPhoenix’s usual softening around the edges.

Apropos my previous post:

The StarPhoenix’s call for a long-term plan for transit (editorial, Nov. 28) is welcome but we need a lot more than just another plan from Saskatoon Transit. They need an attitude adjustment.

Transit officials seemed to have used route capacity data and consulted with city council and the transit-workers’ union as part of their recent review. However, they bizarrely forgot to consult the most important stakeholder of all – the customer.

Saskatoon Transit exhibits the complete antithesis of customer service. While they have their open houses to inform residents of their semi-annual route changes, transit officials never actively solicit passengers on quality of service. They treat reported incidents as a nuisance rather than an opportunity to improve. As far as I know, they never conduct their own market surveys regularly to see what it would take to get non-transit users to take the bus. And where are their annual customer satisfaction surveys?

Their attitude is inherent in their language. They strive to increase “ridership” instead of “sales”. “Customer service representatives” are hidden behind phone lines to those transit users who take the time to dial in a complaint. Bus drivers, who are de facto “customer service reps”, are called “transit operators” as if they are hauling freight or, more appropriately, cattle.

Most importantly, no one in the organization appears to be accountable for poor service. Bus drivers complain about management, management takes no responsibility for lousy bus drivers. And city council simply refuses to acknowledge that this public service model is outdated and unacceptable to the modern consumer.

This is a systemic problem that lies deep within the transit culture. It will only be resolved once all parties adjust their attitude and make customer service their top priority.

We’ll see if that gets a reaction.

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Transit customer service — one out of three ain’t bad

I take the bus a few times a week. The Better Third and I only have the one car, so sometimes I take it, sometimes she gives me a ride, and sometimes I take the bus. Having done this for the past three years, I’ve come to the conclusion that no activity in this city is more demoralizing than taking the bus. It sucks taking the bus.

Hell on wheels

Fortunately, Saskatoon Transit has undergone a service review. Management assessed which routes are overcrowded and which are underutilized and decided to shift resources from routes that are underutilized to the routes that are overcrowded. They consulted with city council and decided to increase the city’s subsidy from $20.5 million to $21.5 million, a 5% increase, which would roughly coincide with their projected 7% increase in ridership in 2011. Their consultation with city council also resulted in not cutting any routes, including the empty Route 40 to the airport, which they will try to fill by consulting with hotels and advertising, and late-night service would not be cut. They even consulted with the union, who was assured that although five full-time jobs would be cut, the reduction comes through attrition only.

Notice what’s missing in this equation? That’s right, they forgot to consult the most important stakeholder — the transit user. Not once in the past three years have I noticed any attempt by Saskatoon Transit to find out what I want in a transit system. I have never been asked to contribute to a survey. I haven’t seen advertising for transit open houses. I have never been solicited to fill out a feedback form. I’ve never been asked for my email address or join a Facebook page where I could receive updates and comment on the quality of service.

This is by design.

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Talking point case-in-point

The only thing that ties Robert Redford to the province of Alberta is that he shares his name with the provincial premier. Yet here he is in the Globe and Mail spouting off the standard talking points about the dirty tar sands and the evils of the Keystone XL and all the rest. If the guy cared so much, he wouldn’t have made all those other faux environmentalists fly their private jets to his precious little film festival in the middle of Buttfuck, Utah.

Robert Redford is big. It's the pictures that got small.

But my beef isn’t with Redford; he’s a clueless aging starlet who’s desperately trying to hang on to relevance at the twilight of his career. I have to hold the G&M to account, however. Any anti-everything dipshit could have written the same op-ed with the same authority as Redford. They might as well used professional Greenpeace gadfly Mike Hudema if the latter wasn’t so busy with the Occupy Edmonton movement as I saw on that city’s local news last weekend. After all, Hudema has a knack for the theatrical, even if he’s never accomplished a damn thing in his entire life.

Honestly, what fool would suddenly change their point of view on such a matter just because a celebrity wrote it? “By golly, Betty Sue, if Robert Redford feels so strongly about it, then that settles it!”

Maybe the paper just wants to sell more papers, and a former movie star can move a lot more ink than one of those commie enviro-wackos who have trouble creating coherent messages for a placard. But I have to believe that having a celebrity spouting off the cause du jour has got to turn more reasonable people off than persuade them to follow along blindly.

Maybe I’m just being naive, but then again, considering the recent election results — both federally and provincially — I feel that there remains some sense of intelligence or good judgement in our wonderful Dominion. Too bad that our supposed national paper of record refuses to acknowledge this.

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Coward Scoured

Bill Maher, the fourth-billed star of House II, came across as a chickenshit coward the other day when he was confronted on a joke he made about wanting to see The View’s Elisabeth Hasselbeck raped like Lara Logan:





Ann Althouse has an excellent take that you should read, but Glenn Reynolds noted the best line by one of her commenters:

The thing that bugs me the most about Bill Maher [is] all that ‘Politically Incorrect’ BS, when in reality he has never in his life uttered a word that wasn’t calculated to get applause from the audience in front him. He’s a coward pretending to heroism.

Maher is a slimy, sarcastic, cynical little turd. Fuck him.

And good on Hasselbeck for calling him out on it.

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Turbine Whine

Rest easy, friend. Saskatoon’s $5 million public relations stunt is safe and economically viable, says the person responsible to ensure the safety and economic viability of Saskatoon’s $5 million public relations stunt.

Four reports on the tall wind turbine project were made public in order to satisfy citizens’ concerns about the safety and environmental impact of the project. These reports covered the impact on birds and bats, sound and shadow flicker, waste mechanics, and wind resource. City councillor Pat Lorje, who never met a constituency she couldn’t pander to, flexed her NIMBY bonafides and focused on the noise and shadow issue. Since the turbine is to be located half a mile from the nearest home atop the local landfill, this was never an issue. Sure, the 120-metre turbine would be a glaring eyesore, but considering the state of public art in this town, I think we can lay the aesthetic argument aside for the time being.

The biggest concern with the project, however, was and remains the economics. Since we are, bizarrely, not provided the economic analysis of the project, we are left with the wind resource assessment conducted by the Saskatchewan Research Council. It is with this assessment, however, that a few red flags emerge regarding the overall feasibility of the project.

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Election Reflection

And the Sask Party kicked the ever-loving shit out of the NDP in yesterday’s provincial election. In my office pool, I was tied for the best prediction (I picked 50 to 8, one riding off) and almost picked the popular vote at 63%-30%-7% (the actual split was 64%-32%-4%).  The $20 I won in the pool was more than anything won by NDP leader Dwain Lingenfelter, who not only lost the provincial vote, but his own seat as well, which couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

I helped out Fred Ozirney during e-day. Fred was the Sask Party candidate for Saskatoon-Riversdale, as he had been in 2007 and 2003. He’s a very good man, oozing of charm and integrity, and when he called me to ask for my help, I didn’t hesitate to respond in the affirmative.

Fred was up against the NDP’s Danielle Chartier, who took the seat in the by-election in 2009 to replace former premier Lorne Calvert, who took over stewardship of the seat from his predecessor, Roy Romanow.  Saskatoon-Riversdale is Saskatoon’s version of Red Square, and Chartier’s family are well-known socialists in the area. I know Danielle, and I like her, but I looked forward to knocking off the NDP this time around.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. Fred only took the nomination about a month before the writ drop, as Corey O’Soup had suddenly taken himself off the ballot. Fred and his experienced team did all they could and more to identify candidates and get the word out. They were also supported by the positive reputation of Brad Wall, which contrasted brightly against the squalor of the NDP leader. But fate had other plans, and although Fred came closer than any other candidate in almost 30 years to beat the NDP, he fell short.

Regardless, I learned a lot from my brief stint on the campaign team, not least of which is the importance of getting out the vote on election day. I’m also proud I helped out a good and decent man, and I met a lot of great people along the way.

In addition, I’m proud that I took part in the election process. This was most evident during the vote count. I scrutineered a couple polls in the riding as the ballot box was emptied and the votes tallied. A rep from the NDP sat beside me, and we observed the poll returning officer and clerk show us every ballot and speak the name endorsed on each ballot out loud. I couldn’t help but think of how rare this wonderful process is around the world. I was able to tell one of the returning officers to repeat one of the counts, and they had to oblige. I knew I could trust both the election officials and my counterpart from the NDP to not attempt to stuff the ballot or disregard the will of the electors. Elections are a beautiful thing, and I felt privileged to have taken part.

A special shout-out goes to Corey Tochor, a friend of mine who defeated long-time NDP heavy Judy Junor (who I happen to know and respect, by the way). He worked very, very hard over the past two years to meet and get to know his electorate and earn their trust. It was his victory, despite what Junor said last night, and he should be proud of his efforts.

And a very extra-special super-duper shout-out to Scott Moe, rookie MLA for Rosthern-Shellbrook (and the husband of the Better Third’s cousin). Scott is a terrific guy who not only took out the Sask Party incumbent at the constituency nomination, but pulled off 64% of the vote to win the riding.

And now, I’m tired. Oh, so tired.

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Science v Pseudoscience


Does it matter? Suppose I am right that much of what passes for mainstream climate science is now infested with pseudoscience, buttressed by a bad case of confirmation bias, reliant on wishful thinking, given a free pass by biased reporting and dogmatically intolerant of dissent. So what?

After all there’s pseudoscience and confirmation bias among the climate heretics too.

Well here’s why it matters. The alarmists have been handed power over our lives; the heretics have not. Remember Britain’s unilateral climate act is officially expected to cost the hard-pressed UK economy £18.3 billion a year for the next 39 years and achieve an unmeasurably small change in carbon dioxide levels.

At least* sceptics do not cover the hills of Scotland with useless, expensive, duke-subsidising wind turbines whose manufacture causes pollution in Inner Mongolia and which kill rare raptors such as this griffon vulture.

At least crop circle believers cannot almost double your electricity bills and increase fuel poverty while driving jobs to Asia, to support their fetish.

At least creationists have not persuaded the BBC that balanced reporting is no longer necessary.

At least homeopaths have not made expensive condensing boilers, which shut down in cold weather, compulsory, as John Prescott did in 2005.

At least astrologers have not driven millions of people into real hunger, perhaps killing 192,000 last year according to one conservative estimate, by diverting 5% of the world’s grain crop into motor fuel*.

That’s why it matters. We’ve been asked to take some very painful cures. So we need to be sure the patient has a brain tumour rather than a nosebleed.

h/t sda

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