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Showing posts from 2010


SleepyCity has an amazing post on the Paris Metro. If you're like me, a total transit nerd, check this out. They risk life and limb to explore the Metro's 'lost' tunnels and stations. Tons of pictures.  Think the City is a dangerous place to raise a kid? Think again. Grist finds out that the suburbs can be more unsafe.  Glasshouse Conversations asks, "What else should public space do?" Watch the evolution of Washington D.C.'s Metro. I'm highly jealous of their wide ranging system that started only 10 years before Vancouver's Skytrain. The CityFix lists their top 10 new transit systems for 2010. Dallas' Green Line is quite impressive. Under 'notable addition or expansions' at the bottom on the page, Vancouver's Olympic Street car is mentioned - sadly, it is no longer running and there doesn't seem to be much going on...yet! Notice that bikes get some attention - hey Vancouver, how about that bike-share program you've been ta…

'Tis the Season

Because I do this every year: 
I want to see great herds of bison grazing on freeway medians and, in stampede, spilling down the clover-leafs like a mudslide. I want to see rush-hour traffic paralyzed by them, and goggle-eyed commuters forced to get out of their cars to wonder at the great noble mass in before them.
I want to see long-legged wolves loping through shopping mall parking lots like punks looking for trouble, so that the yappy Shih-Tzus of chic matrons cower in their SUVs and fear for their lives.
I want to see flocks of blue-birds and painted buntings and scarlet tanagers braiding in and out among the hydro lines, and then roosting there, as bright as strings of car-lot pennants!
I want the fairways of golf clubs to revert to wildflower meadow, and see a thousand picnics bloom there. I want the lawns of suburbia to grow as high as a horse’s withers. I want milkweed and Queen Anne’s Lace and dandelions never to be thought of as weeds again, and to take their lordly …

Translink: Ads Coming to Your Farecard

Late last week Translink (via The Buzzer Blog) announced that they would be putting advertisements on their monthly farecards. According to the available mock-up, the ad would take up just under one half of the card space. In exchange, Translink is getting a minimum of $84,000/year and according to the press release, space has already been sold for the first 6 months. I strongly oppose this for a few reasons.

For only $7000/month, is it worth it? One comment left on the Buzzer noted that if they sell roughly 140,000 farecards (131,000 sold in March 2007), that is only about 5 cents per card. I'd think if I was holding captive every farecard holder's eye, I could get a bit more cash out of the deal. But to me, that's besides the point.

I find the more important issues are that 1.) advertising is not particularly stable funding 2.) it's further corporatizition of our public transit space. Transit users already have to put up with ads in the vehicles, on the vehicl…

Art: "The City"

I just had to post these images of Artist Lori Nix's work titled 'The City' in which "public spaces devoted to history and science lie deteriorating and neglected while nature slowly takes them back." See her work here

Greenest City: "Food Incubator"

Story by the Vancouver Sun: Downtown Eastside food projects win approval
Among some of the cooler projects going on around Vancouver as a part of the broader 'Greenest City' initiative is the 'Food  Incubator' that could be set up next in the old Save-On-Meats building on Hastings Street. You can read more about business incubators here. In general, they are a great way to nurture small businesses by giving them resources to be successful and we're all aware that small businesses are essential to any neighbourhood's success. In addition to being a really great program, the Save-On-Meats building, which had been a butcher shop for 50+years until it closed last year, will re-open again as a butcher shop but with a grocery store and restaurant, as well. I'm happy to see such a prominent building being re-used for fantastic things.

Public Space: Robson Square

I've written before about the Robson Square/Court House/Art Gallery area before, however, recently there's been some great movement about to possibly create a public space on the south side - the 800-block segment of Robson Street (between Hornby and Howe).
Essentially, the city would permanently close that section of Robson street to vehicle traffic. There is a possibility that they will keep the street open to transit vehicles, as they do on Granville Street. I would strong argue against this as it would limit programming and confuse people as to the nature of the space as Granville Street does. The problem is the #5 bus that connects the West End to the rest of the city. Currently, this section of the street is closed off due to construction and traffic patterns have already adjusted. The #5 has been re-routed but its new route is convoluted and confusing - Translink should immediately look to simplifying this if the closure were to be permanent.

I have extremely high hopes…

Newsmaker of the Year: The Bicycle

The Vancouver Courier has declared the Bicycle 'Newsmaker of the Year'. This is a significant choice considering the year that Vancouver has had. It brings into focus how behemothic the issue of two wheels vs four has become. It has even eclipsed the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

I will layout my bias right now (if you couldn't tell already) that I'm pro-bike infrastructure. I believe that a city that has a great mix of walking, cycling, and driving, is a great city. There are the usual suspects in Europe that we can point to: Copenhagen, Paris, Lyon, Berlin, and Amsterdam. And there are cities in North America that are forging ahead with building better cycling facilities: Portland, Boston, Washington D.C., Montreal, and New York. Like Vancouver, these cities are suffering their own backlashes. New York is finding out that great success comes at a cost. The bike is a political issue again.

In many ways, people react to the removal of a car lane as if their inalienable hu…

Image: Powering Vancouver

The Death and Life of Gastown: Part Four - Planning Vancouver in the 1950s,

Planning Vancouver: 1950s  In 1952, Vancouver set up its first Planning Department that worked in conjunction with a City Council appointed Planning Commission. Even more influential than the Commission were the Technical Planning Board, which handled the physical development functions, and a Board of Administration (BOA), composed of the mayor and two commissioners. The BOA enjoyed dominance over City Council and its affairs.[1] Gerald Sutton-Brown became one of those two commissioners. Donald Gutstein, a Vancouver Academic, describes Sutton-Brown as “most powerful person at City Hall, his power verging on the absolute.”[2] Here is where people often draw parallels to New York's Robert Moses (albeit without the cash). 
Sutton-Brown’s influence is an important factor to Gastown’s revitalization because of his authority over city development plans and his role in two very important and inter-connected projects: a Vancouver Freeway system and Project 200. Gutstein argues that, althoug…

Transit Debates and What We Don't Need

We need more transit and we need better transportation options. We need communities that are built for people not cars. We need a lot of things.

What we don't need is pointless quibbling. By breaking down how much each municipality pays for our regional transportation system versus how much service they receive in return is besides the point. Where does that get us? All it does is stir up controversy and doesn't advance the conversation or our common goals.

In Metro Vancouver, Translink's services and initiatives affect us all (they do more than just run our transit system). Improved service on Skytrain or the B-line or any bus route for that matter can positively benefit all of us (read on Human Transit what transit can do for us). Each municipality is not an island unto itself and their citizens and goods are not bound within their borders.

If each municipality started its own transit agency, what benefit would it bring us? We'd have 20+ agencies that could lead to t…


There was Woodwards (and the Charles Bar), now there's the new Waldorf. There's always a fear that when you revitalize or renew (words are a very touchy subject when come to the dreaded 'gentrification' subject) a building, business or block, that it will inevitably harm the people who already live in the neighbourhood (see: Gastown, DTES, etc.). A friend from Oregon just visited Vancouver for the first time. Read his review! Amazing  restoration work done to Grand Central Station's ceilingRobson Street may finally get its square!According to this French report from the city of Lyon, cyclists get around quicker than those that drive cars. Also, they travel quicker on Wednesdays...good ol' Humpday.   More news from New York: They're expanding their successful 'Pop-up Cafe' program. They've noticed a 14% increase in business where the cafes are installed.  I'd like to see this kind of thing all over Vancouver. Main, Robson, Denman, Davie, Co…

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

6 months. 88 posts. Over 4000 page views with 1300 just this past month. Not a huge feat nor am I bragging but this, for me, is somewhat a personal victory. When I launched this blog back in the Summer, I intended it to be a place to help me gauge my interest in urban planning and I think I can safely say that, after all this, I still love this stuff.
Now comes the hard part: what do I want to do? Where do I want to go?

My two choices for grad schools are McGill in Montreal and SFU in Vancouver. I like the look of McGill's Urban Planning program because it seems very hands on and practical with a studio component. Also, it's in a different city with a ton of diversity and a very interesting urban form. McGill also carries with it the cache of its name being one of the best universities in Canada.

SFU's Urban Studies program intrigued me because of its breadth and connections to other institutions. However, it isn't a 'traditional' planning program and d…

King George Boulevard: A Complete Street?

These are some mock ups I did for a project recently. The top is a section of King George Boulevard as it currently exists (or as close as I could gather from Surrey's GIS data / it was my first time using Google SketchUp...). You will see 3 travel lanes on the left and 3 travel lanes on the right in addition to a left turning lane. That's 7 lanes, or around 26 meters, dedicated to cars.

The picture below is what we envision King George Boulevard becoming. Large sidewalks, with bike lanes in each direction and limited to 4 travel lanes with a left hand turn lane (down to 16.5 meters!). (You can tell I spent a bit more time on this graphic and I also got a bit more used to SketchUp). Also, I'd like to mention that this version of King George Boulevard is a 'Green Street' (integrated stormwater management!). 

Images: 350 eARTh in Vancouver

On Sunday morning, my partner and I woke up a bit earlier than normal (re: before noon) to attend Vancouver's 350 eARTh public art event. When we got to David Lam park around 9:45 AM and we saw around 50 or so people. For Vancouver, it was to be expected. I don't know how to explain it but Vancouver has a very high 'ditch' rate for events - that is, people say they'll be there but then don't end up going. It seems hard to muster a good crowd in Vancouver. However, it was before 10:00 AM on a Sunday at -5 degrees Celsius. Let's focus on the positive!

In the end, we were able to muster a great group of enthusiastic people. By the end of it, we were all numb from the cold and left with some great images. A big thanks to the organizers and the people who braved the ravaging Vancouver 'winter'.
More here: Pics:…

Video: Toronto Boom Town, 1951

While trolling the National Film Board of Canada's website (everything is free to watch and I highly recommend you check it out), I came across this short 10 minute documentary on Toronto.
Synopsis: This short documentary studies the contrast between the sedate Toronto of the turn of the century and the thriving, expanding metropolis of 1951. Aerial views give evidence of the conversion of the old Toronto into the new--the city with towering skyscrapers, teeming traffic arteries, vast industrial developments and far-reaching residential areas housing over a million people. Toronto's mid-century progress is also Canada's, as manifested in the building of Canada's first subway, and in the bustle of the nation's greatest trading centre--the Toronto Stock Exchange. ***TAKES SOME TIME TO LOAD****


The Cost of Bus Service in Metro Vancouver

Last night was my weekly class with the SFU & City of Surrey Transportation Lecture Program and I'd thought I'd share some interesting info.

Translink staff gave a few great presentations. One of them dealt with Route Planning and the costs associated with routes/service. For instance, one service hour costs $118 on average for a bus. Around 80% of that cost is labour (driver and maintenance). So, a bus on the road for 18 hours/day costs almost $775, 000/year (which is more than the bus actually costs).

What does that translate to on the road? Here's an example bus route they gave us:

From point A to point B: 45 minutes
From point B to point A: 45 minutes
Transition time at each end: 10 minutes x2 (20minutes)
Complete Cycle: 110 minutes
Headway (frequency): 10 minutes 

For this route, you would need 11 buses on the road. The estimated cost for a year of service was $8.5million - remember, this is the cost for ONE frequent bus route. 

This is some large cash behind …


Human Transit's post on 'Mapnificent'. Like 'Walkscore', it seems like an interesting tool to use for understanding an area's accessibility but via public transit. Also, it's available for Vancouver!  Watch 'Mapnificent' describe itself below: 
Mapnificent from Stefan Wehrmeyer on Vimeo. Brent Toderian, Vancouver's Director of Planning, has a post on Planetizen about 'Hidden Density' - or Vancouver's Laneway Housing initiative/Eco-Density/Whateveryouwanttocallit. Found this via Price Tags. Also, have a gander at Lance Berelowitz's comment at the bottom (he's the author of Dream City) The Director of Planning for the City of Decatur, Georgia, makes a Call to Arms (and Legs, Hearts and Lungs). She writes, "I’d like to suggest that if there was such a thing as designer malpractice we would be in a lot of trouble right now." The Globe and Mail asks, 'Gravy - Or good planning?' This will become an important questi…

Event: 350 Earth in Vancouver!

From the VPSN Blog.

On Sunday, November 21, VPSN is partnering with to take public art to a whole new (atmospheric) level. For the first time in history Vancouver will be taking a place in a global art exhibit to show how climate change is affecting the planet and demonstrate public support for creative solutions to climate change.

People in Cairo, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Reykjavik, Bejing, Mumbai and 14 other cities will gather to create massive public art installations on the eve of the United Nations climate meetings in Cancun, Mexico where delegates will be working to create an international climate treaty. Every site will create large, unique formations that will be captured on camera by air and by satellite.

So, if you’re game for a Sunday that’s a little different from your last, join us at David Lam Park at 9:30am Sunday, November 21. Before then, please let us know to expect you by filling out this form and taking the time to also RSVP on Facebook.

Want mo…

Sustainable Stormwater Management: Portland's Green Streets

Watching the Streetfilm video about Portland's Bike Boulevards I posted not to long ago brought to my attention their Sustainable Stormwater initiative - Green Streets - and it got me really interested in them. 

Stormwater seems like a pretty banal issue but it's actually very important in cities because they contain a lot of impervious, impermeable surfaces (i.e. streets). When it rains, the water runs off, collects and needs to be drained into our storm sewer system which then leads to our waterways (streams, rivers, etc.). Stormwater can pick up pollutants, dirt, and other contaminants and it can also cause flooding and erosion which destroys habitat and contributes to combined sewer overflows (CSOs).

In Portland, they've opted for a fantastic approach to these problems. They believe that:
Stormwater management systems that mimic nature by integrating stormwater into building and site development can reduce the damaging effects of urbanization on rivers and streams.…

Illustrated Vancouver: Burrard Station Cutaway

Translink Moving Forward: Property taxes if necessary, but not necessarily property taxes.

Earlier this week, Translink's board forwarded two Transportation and Financial Supplemental Plans to the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation. Read about it here and here and at the Buzzer.

The Mayor's Council will either approve one of these plans or neither which would keep Translink on it's 'base plan' (i.e. working with what they have).

Option 1: 'Delivering the Evergreen Line and the North Fraser Perimeter Road'
Funding the Evergreen SkyTrain Line connecting the Lougheed and Coquitlam town centres and for an extension of United Boulevard in Coquitlam as the first phase of the North Fraser Perimeter Road goods movement corridor from the Queensborough Bridge in New Westminster to Highway #1.Option 2: 'Moving Forward'
 Same as above AND proposes additional road and transit improvements across Metro Vancouver, notably in the South of Fraser and North Shore sub-regions. Would add over 425, 000 hours of annual transit service (23 million transit…


Mitchel Silver, head of the American Planning Association talks about planning in the past and looks to the future: "planning, when well-executed, leads to economic development while embracing diversity and social equity."Chicago Tribune: Apple has spent $4 million to renovate a run-down  metro stop and plaza that exists next to a soon-to-open Apple store - "It's the equivalent of mowing the neighbor's weedy lawn — and paying the neighbor to let you."The Globe and Mail's Scott Latimer admits that Cyclists scare him. Here are some quotes: In the great urban debate of car versus bike, I reluctantly side with cars. I am a driver, mostly out of necessity, as I live in the 416 but work in the 905. Being a driver, however, does not mean I am against bicycling, or against urban bicycling.... I would be for bicycling in dedicated bike lanes, or bicycling in any context that is safe and accessible and doesn’t force cyclists to imperil themselves riding in heavy …

The Death and Life of Gastown: Part Three - Post-War Modernity

At the end of the war, Canadians were more affluent than ever before and as the economy boomed, so did the population. These factors converged to ensured the proliferation of the suburbs — Canadians looking to realize their domestic dreams of idealized living. Aided by the rise of the automobile — by 1960 two-thirds of households owned a car[1] — middle-class families fled the city towards the periphery of Canadian cities where there was room for a family home with a yard in a quiet and clean neighbourhood.
            As Canadians sought their suburban lives outside the city, “the exodus of the middle class . . . triggered  a ‘filtering down’ — that is, a decline in households’ socio-economic status, conversions of single-family units into multi-family accommodation, and subsequent physical deterioration of an aging housing stock.”[2] Furthermore, the perception of the inner-city in contrast to the idyllic suburb, the conditions of the inner-city ‘slum’ were considered the root of ma…

Architecture: McMillan Bloedel Office Tower, 1969

One of my favourite buildings in Vancouver.
MacMillan Bloedel Office Tower, 1969 @ Vancouverism
Revitalizing downtown Vancouver, two offset narrow slabs of offices are linked by a stair/elevator core, with a sunken plaza along Georgia Street. One of the world's best applications of post-Le Corbusier Brutalism to a downtown office tower, it is notable for its trabeated cast concrete frame, and the "entasis' or slimming as its office floors rise.

Event: Carl Elefante – Lecture and Heritage Symposium

Ah! I wish I could go to this so bad! ______________________________________________________________________
Carl Elefante coined the phrase: “The greenest building is the one that is already built.”   He is Director of Sustainable Design at Qunin Evans Architects, Washington, D.C. At an upcoming lecture at SFU, he’ll be addressing the question: ”What is the cultural, economic, environmental sustainability of older buildings” FREE public lecture: Renewal + Transformation – Heritage conservation practice integrated with the quest for a sustainable way of life. 7 pm – Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010 - SFU Harbour Centre More here.Register here.


Daniel Nairn @ Sustainable Cities Collective talks about developing a YIMBY mindset.The CityFix: Is Bike Sharing the Newest Mode of Public Transport? Many cities are trying this out and having great success (except you Melbourne, you silly bunch). Have you heard about Vancouver's Green Streets? Neither had I until I read this article and it's pretty impressive. If you've got a green thumb, why not join? CityCaucus's asks, "why are bike lanes so controversial?" 

Write-Up: Cities, Bicycles and the Future of Getting Around

On Sunday, October 24, hundreds of cyclists and interested Vancouverites braved the oppressive, wet and windy weather to fill the Playhouse to listen a panel of speakers talk about Cities, Bicycles and the Future of Getting Around. Part of Capilano University's Pacific Arbor Speaker Series, the Panel composed of Vancouver Mayor Gegor Robertson; musician and artist of Talking Heads fame, David Byrne; Co-Publisher and Creative Director of Momentum Magazine, Amy Walker; and founder of re:place Magazine,Erick Villagomez. Retired CBC Broadcaster and Cycling advocate, Paul Grant, emceed and mediated the night's proceedings.

How Toronto Voted For Mayor

Narrow Streets: Los Angeles, A Fantasy Urban Makeover in Photographs

During David Bryne's presentation last Sunday at the Cities, Bicycles and the Future of Getting Around forum and he showed us some images from an 'art' project - Narrow Streets: Los Angeles . They were images of wide, multi-lane streets in L.A. where Artist David Yoon then, using the magic of Photoshop, made them narrower (more here id you want to learn how). The results are remarkable (the last one is my favourite):