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Showing posts from January, 2011

Bludgeoned into Modernity: Paris, Haussmann and the Opera

Here is a paper I wrote for an Art History class during my undergrad. Just goes to show you how cities, planning, and urban design can work its way into many different faculties. Also, here's an article by the NY times you may find interesting.

At the start of the 19th century, before Paris was The City of Light, it was a dark, cramped and unhealthy city that rested on an obsolete medieval framework. However, the fall of the July Monarchy and rise of Louis Napoleon’s Second Empire at mid-century ushered in an era of rapid transformation. Raymond Escholier wrote, “The second of December 1851 had two great victims: The Republic and Old Paris.”[1] Emperor Napoleon III chose a strong-willed man from Bordeaux, Georges-Eugène Haussmann, to manage and implement Paris’ modernization. By the fall of the Second Empire, Paris was a city of “generous boulevards, linked by squares and anchored by monumental public buildings.”[2] Nowhere is this more evident than Charles Garnier’s Opera House –…

Architectural Diversity in Vancouver

When people visit Vancouver for the first time they often remark on how beautiful, vibrant, and diverse it is. Indeed, it's a very photogenic place to be. However, one of the things people also mention is how everything looks the same (re:dull) - it's lack of architectural diversity, if you will.

If you've ever set your eyes on the city skyline, you'd find a fairly uniform sea of green and blue glass. Douglas Coupland aptly titled his conversational book about Vancouver, 'The City of Glass'.

The uniformity isn't just in colour and material but in size and shape. Most of Vancouver's towers are slim and the height is regulated to protect 'view corridors'. The large exceptions in Vancouver's skyline are the One Wall Centre and the Shangri-La. Currently, the City is reviewing its building height policy to allow much taller buildings in a few places in the city (and some taller buildings in heritage areas like Gastown and Chinatown).

 When I th…

Event: Jan Gehl at the Playhouse Theatre


Burnaby is getting a gift - from Prince Aga Khan. The Prince's foundation will create a 14 acre community park in Central Burnaby.Shhhhhh! A local transit authority in New Jersey has introduced a 'Quiet Commute' program that boast quiet train cars.Cell phone conversations on transit are a huge pet peeve of mine - I make a point of never answering my phone on the bus or train.  Portland, as usual, doing good things. This time, they're building a 700ft pedestriant/cyclist bridge.Carbusters has a great post reviewing the pedestrianization of Times Square in NYC:The new Times Square is a uniquely democratic experience. There is no screening process, no admission fee, and no reservations are required. ... Previous to the ban on autos, no more than 20 moving vehicles could fit on each of those same blocks. And rather than those relatively few motorists who merely passed through the space without fully appreciating it, we now accommodate many more people who choose it as a de…

Public Bike Share Programs: Seeing Eye to Eye

I had the urge to add another segment to my Bike Share posts after reading Stephen Miller's blog post, "People riding bikes aren't jerks, they're just like you" (Greater Greater Washington).

Miller argues that bicycle advocates often neglect the 'empathetic' appeal in favour of more issue-based arguments (public health, sustainability, etc.). What he means is, that they often fail to portray cyclists as everyday citizens trying to get from point A to point B. This is completely true and Vancouver is no stranger to the negative results this produces.

Cyclists are perceived as reckless and undeserving of respect because they don't show any. Cyclists become the 'other' - completely unrelated. Furthermore, when cities and governments start providing bike lanes or building other facilities for cyclists there is a concerted, vocal, and fierce backlash because it looks like road is being given away to an irresponsible minority. But it doesn't hav…

Public Bike Share Programs: Part Two - Vancouver!

Public Bike Sharing in Vancouver? Yep, it could have happened for the Olympics.

In 2008, Translink commissioned a report on the feasibility of a Public Bicycle Share (PBS) Program in Vancouver. The report looked at many of the successful systems around the world (see chart below), including the one in Paris and Montreal that I talked about in my last post.
These cities have generally succeeded in introducing the bicycle as a useful public transit mode with some reaching up to a 15% subscription rate and reportedly achieving a 5% drop in car trips. Essentially, a PBS acts as an extension of the existing transit system and is comparatively cheaper and more feasible in dense, congested urban areas where conventional systems may be constrained. These systems also lead to more 'private' cycling and a general increase in cyclists on the road makes it safer for all road users (critical mass).

 As for the feasibility, the report looked at these indicators:
An environment where many shor…

Public Bike Share Programs: Part One

First post of the New Year!

If there's anything that's consistent about the end of a year, it's 'best of' lists. One of the more intriguing lists was one by The City Fix that I linked to in my last Reading post. They named 11 of the best new transit systems for 2010. What was interesting about this particular post was that of those 11, 3 were public bike share (PBS) systems. The ones they note are in Washington, D.C., Mexico City, and London.

This is important because the bicycle is quickly gaining a status as a genuinely useful transportation mode (particularly in North America) and gaining status as an integral part of the transit system. The Bike-Sharing Blog has counted that in 2010 there have been a 49% increase in PBS systems around the world - a estimated total of 238. In fact, they've been spreading quite quickly around the world (see graph). If you want to learn more about them, check out their blog but I'll explain a bit here and what it could mea…