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Showing posts from 2011

2011 -> 2012

Year end reviews are sometimes bitter-sweet. While I personally feel I achieved a lot in 2011 - like getting into Grad School (whole point of this blog!) - there's a lot to be desired on the progress front toward a sustainable future...with the epitome of failure being Canada's lack of leadership at Durban.

If there's one but of advice I can impart on you is: be persistent and have courage. Go for your goals and don't look back. Even if you don't reach them, you will make progress and be better off than when you started. 

Here's what I can look forward to 2012:
Starting Grad School this JanuaryStarting a Podcast on this blog (thanks to a very generous Christmas gift. Ideas are welcome!)Perhaps holding a 'Paint-in Event' in Centennial SquarePresenting at Velo-City on behalf of Translink Bike-share coming to Vancouver?
To you and yours, I hope you have a very happy and safe New Years.

-Brandon

The Great Vancouver Paint-In: Let's Do It Again!

The Great Vancouver Paint-In is one of my favourite history items that no one in Vancouver really knows about (I've written a bit about it before). I think it's an important one and one that may need to be repeated. 

In April of 1966, artists from across the city gathered at the courthouse (now the Vancouver Art Gallery) and went to work paint the hoardings that surround the construction of the centennial fountain. The artists were invited and encouraged by Mayor Bill Rathie (to raise the ire of the Premier). Rathie was somewhat upset at the construction of the 'secret' fountain in such a central and integral public space with very little public input.

Behind the fountain was Premier W. A. C. Bennett. He refused to let anyone see the designs and put up the hoarding so no one could see it until it was complete. The Paint-in made the public space public again and in a way, it was a very successful (and simple) case of public engagement. Crowds of up to 700 amassed to se…

Shit

I am by no means the most eloquent writer and I am definitely not the foremost authority on climate science or the economy but the past few weeks have riled me up and I need to vent a bit. Granted, Kyoto wasn't perfect. Not many international treaties are but it was something - It was an understanding that action was needed.

Our government (I refuse to preface it with Harper because it doesn't belong to him, it belongs to all of us), was purposefully critical at Durban without the intention of being constructive. Rather than be a leader, Canada chose to opt out.

To be fair, this government inherited Kyoto from a Liberal government that ratified it but did little to enforce it or attempt to meet its obligations. But, so what? A new government should have seen that failure as an opportunity and said, "we can and will do better!" It should have lead the way, engaging the provinces, our cities and our citizens. We are an innovative nation full of people with ideas who ar…

Reading

For the first time, the TED Prize was not awarded to a person. Instead, it was awarded to an idea: "an idea upon which our planet’s future depends.….the City 2.0."The New York Times article about the importance of public space: Treasuring Urban Oases.A Great article in The Atlantic about the effect of gas prices on American commuting habitsEvery 10 percent increase in fuel costs led to an increase in bus ridership of up to 4 percent, and a spike in rail travel of up to 8 percent. These results suggest a "significant untapped potential" for transit ridership, Lane reports in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Transport Geography. In other words, a significant part of America's love for the automobile may only be its desire for inexpensive transportation.Blog post from the 'Musing Urbanist' about the "Invisible Economy" in Vancouver. Resiliency - it's who you know. And lastly, an article on one of my favourite subjects: biomimicry. Ove…

Cheap Rent: New York's Mid-70s Musical Revolution

A week ago, I was listing to a podcast episode of NPR's All Songs Considered. The episode was called "When New York Was 'On Fire': A Mid-'70s Musical Revolution". Here's the synopsis:
If you were in New York City in the 1970s, you might have stumbled upon the birth of punk, new-wave, hip-hop, salsa, disco, minimalist classical and avant-garde jazz. The city during these five years — 1973 through '77 — was the birthplace of many of the most innovative and influential musical genres born in the second half of the 20th Century, despite the fact that it was economically devastated, and was thought — at the time — to be musically bankrupt. This episode interested me for a few reasons: it's about New York and music and they also address connection between the city and arts/creative industry. For the most part, the thing that struck me was how integral cheap rent was to fostering such a vibrant scene (according to the host and his guest). They disc…

Vancouver Election: Geography of Politics

On November 19th Vancouver voted and on November 20th, data geeks were having at it. On election night, it was fun just watching the results roll in on the city map, with each division going either red or green. And it was a nail-biter (I don't think I was the only one screaming for last hold-out in the West End to report) that made all the difference for the Green Party's Adriane Carr who beat out COPE's Ellen Woodsworth by 90 votes for the 10th and final Councillor spot. It does go to show you that every vote counts.

At the end of the spectacle, we had a city that was very much green with some significant pockets of red:
But what does it all mean? It's a very simple map: green division are ones in which Robertson received a plurality of votes and the Red ones are which Anton received a plurality. At first glace, the City seems to be divided on a more North-South axis instead the assumed East-West one. However, another map that Frances Bula posted shows a bit more de…

Fun with Graphs 2!

So, I made another sickness/fever induced graph the other night. Also, if you care, turns out I have strep throat (ugh) and I'm on a healthy diet of antibiotics now (yay!). Here, I graphed the number of registered vehicles per person in Langley (Township AND the City), Surrey and Vancouver. Langley was my particular focus because it's where I grew up and it's one of the most auto-dominated places I know. I even once recall hearing that there were actually more cars than people in Langley...not quite but they are close to 1:1.
To be fair, the stats I obtained from Metro Vancouver include commercial vehicles ( and pretty much any vehicle that has active insurance). Maybe Langley has a high number of commercial vehicles...or motorcycles...or it could be that the built environment is highly conducive to the automobile.


Fun with Graphs!

So, I've been sick the entire long weekend and I've had nothing to do but watch 90s cartoons on Netflix. Then, it got even nerdier: I started making graphs. Here's a preview of one that shows the % of change in population and in # of registered vehicles for the North Fraser and South Fraser communities since 1999. If it doesn't make sense, I blame the fever. Hopefully, I'll post something more meaningful later.

Election Season

If you didn't know, Vancouver and the rest of British Columbia is in municipal election mania. Last week, I attended/volunteered at Vancouver Public Space Network's Last Candidate Standing event. It was quite the interesting and overall, Occupy Vancouver ended up being a large focus. In the end, it was 22 year old Lauren Gill who was left standing (you can get the live-blog transcript here). The year previous, a young woman also took the prize. Funny how the audience each time chose a candidate who's the opposite of who normally gets elected. But it gives me hope that young people may have a place in elected office yet. Regardless of whatever politics you preach, it's important for us, the younger generation, to take an active role. Please, don't forget to vote.



Vancouver's Annual Skytrain Party

Holy November!
October was a fairly busy month and it was topped off by the best event I've been to in a long while: Vancouver's Annual Halloween Skytrain Party.

Organized by the Vancouver Public Space Network (a group I volunteer with), it's a wonderful celebration of public space and public transit - but with costumes!

We advertised via Facebook and e-mail for everyone to meet us at Waterfront Station downtown at 7:45PM but kept which train we would be taking a secret (we ended up on the Canada Line). About 10 VPSNers met at the station around 7:30PM to group up and organize the equipment for the music. I went down to the Canada Line platform to scope it out. When I got there, there were 4 transit police officers and 3 Canada Line staff members down there waiting. It seemed at first like our party would be bust.

However, as people started to stream into the station the police and staff didn't seem to try to stop anyone. In fact, while they seemed overwhelmed by the…

Video: To Build a Better City...in 1964.

A great documentary that details the process of urban renewal that Vancouver under went in the 1960s. Pay close attention to the language of the narrator.

Grad School Update: Acceptance!

It's been over a year, in the making but it finally happened (despite a few setbacks): I've been accepted into a graduate program.
Yesterday afternoon, I received my acceptance letter to Simon Fraser University's Urban Studies program.



Honestly, I couldn't be happier. I was about ready to accept another rejection and try again next year. I would like to sincerely thank everyone who's supported me (especially those that read this blog). If there's any advice that I can impart on my experience is that: never give up, never settle, and focused persistence does pay off - look at the first post for this blog done in May, 2010. I know we've heard these things a lot in the recent days with the speech Steve Jobs gave a Stanford but a lot of the things he says are true: find what you love and go do that.

Here's to the future!

South Granville: More than Just Cars, Please.

A few weeks ago, I saw this advertisement at my local grocery store:
Immediately, I rolled my eyes and I took a photo because I couldn't believe that, in 2011, we'd need to advertise the fact that there is parking available - if it's everywhere (more than 1400 spaces!) why the need to advertise the fact?. I posted it to my blog and asked what people thought and got the attention of my local business improvement association who created the ads. They said:
it is unfortunate that you construe a simple customer service item as a major statement on transportation choices.

Sharon Townsend
South Granville BIA
While it may be a 'simple' customer service item, it was pretty easy to 'construe' as a statement on transportation choices. I checked out their website and the devote a large portion of their 'Find Us' page for parking (they even have a .PDF map) and link to Translink's trip planner and nothing on biking.

I would assume that South Granville's …

Tour of Skytrain Control

Last week I got to fulfill a childhood/teenage/adult dream: I got to see Skytrain control. One of my colleagues from the BC Youth Summit for Sustainable Transportation was able to organize a tour of their maintenance/operations facility.

We met outside Edmonds station and walked over to the very secure yards and we had to clear security and I was even scolded for taking a photo on my phone (though, luckily, we were allowed to take photos once we were inside).

Our first stop once inside was a boardroom for a presentation about the system. For instance, the Expo and Millennium lines carry the same amount of people as 12 lanes of freeway in the AM peak period in the downtown direction. It has grown from 114 cars in 1987 to 258 today. But enough about the boring stuff.
They then took us to Skytrain control. Outside the main room are these display panels of the system. Top panels are the Millennium line and the bottom are the Expo line. The panel to the bottom right is the maintenance ya…

Documentary: Urbanized Screening in Vancouver

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There's a special screening of Urbanized coming to Vancouver on November 21 at the Rio. Here's the link.

South Granville: Bring Your Cars!

This is how my neighbourbood, South Granville, advertises itself - discuss! (My thoughts will come later).

Toronto

I grew up learning that Toronto was 'the centre of the universe' and that I should hate it. Then, in 2004 after I graduated from high school, I hopped on a Greyhound to explore a bit more of my country for myself with Toronto as the first stop. It took 3 days to get there but after I showered off 72+ hours of bus ride, I fell in love with the city.

Vancouver is a big city but it is a bit deceiving. Our downtown is fairly small and we're only around 600,000 people which puts us as the 8th biggest municipality in Canada - behind Mississauga and Winnipeg.

Toronto, on the other hand, feels like a big city because it is. It sprawls practically unhindered in all directions, except with water to one side. It felt like being in a city from the movies - somehow more real than the one I was used to at home: bright lights and the world's tallest free-standing structure. It's safe to say I was hooked. This past summer, I went back for my third time.
This time around, I got t…