Thursday, March 31, 2011

Around the Web: UBC Line Rapid Transit Study

UBC Line Rapid Transit Study

Buzzer Blog
Yesterday morning, I attended a blogger breakfast held by Translink for the launch of Phase 2 of the UBC Line Rapid Transit Study. They provided a table of us with some great information on the study thus far and the 'alternatives' for the line. Basically, the 'alternatives' differ by technology and alignment. I found the breakfast incredibly enlightening - Translink has put a lot of work in this study and it's worth your attention because Broadway is such an important corridor to Vancouver and the region.

When looking at the alternatives, it's easy to get swept up in looking at fancy vehicles or looking for the cheapest option (given the financial constraints we face). I would ask that you thinking more constructively. Look at the alignment (street-level, underground, elevated), road space allocation (parking, travel lanes, sidewalk space), station placement (they're pretty much the 99 B-Line stops), and on the evaluation itself.

It was also stressed in the breakfast by an attendee that we think about the future. We tend to focus on our situations here and now but we should look for the most resilient option - one that ensures the future productivity of the corridor.

I'm not going to regurgitate the entire study for you here but I will pass on some information that they'd like everyone to have. Here are some key dates:
  • Thursday, March 31@ Ponderosa Centre, 2071 West Mall, UBC - 6PM to 9PM
  • Monday, April 4 @ Online Webinar (don't forget to review the alternatives) - 7PM to 8PM
  • Tuesday, April 5@ Kits Secondary School Gym, 2550 10 AVE W Vancouver - 6PM to 9PM
  • Wednesday, April 6 @ Tenth Avenue Alliance Church, 11 10 AVE W, Vancouver - 6PM to 9

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Robson Square: Steps to a Great Public Space

Owly ImagesLast week or so, I came across the steps to the Art Gallery and saw a great thing: people using public space. I then thought of the potential a new Robson Square if the street were to stay closed and if the city were to introduce table and chairs.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Podcast: The Path(s) Not Taken

You may recall that I was part of a Museum of Vancouver walking tour earlier this month. I helped lead a group of people under the viaducts to talk about the history behind them, the Vancouver that could have been, and their possible future. Demian, my partner in crime from VPSN, talked about the ideology of planning during the 1950s and 1960s. I went on (re: ramble) to talk about the history of the viaducts themselves and highway programs in Vancouver. Michael Green from MGB Architecture and Design talked about the built environment of the area and Gastown, which would have been lost had highways been constructed. Overall, I think it was fairly successful. The MOV put together a podcast of the proceeding - have a listen!
Moving Through: The Path(s) Not Taken: Viaducts, Expressways, and Almost Vancouvers. by Museum Of Vancouver

Friday, March 18, 2011

Having Purpose

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” – Jane Jacobs
Thinking back to earlier this year when I applied to Grad School, I recalled doing a lot of paper work but also a great deal of thinking. One particular part of the process I think was valuable was writing my Statement of Purpose. Although writing a statement of purpose is part BS and part sincerity, it forces you to write down why you're doing what you're doing and then you can look back on what you've written and say, "Yeah, This is what want to do and I'm happy with it." I find that we get stuck or settle into 'the motions'. Instead, we should understand what gets us excited. Writing a statement of purpose every now and them should help us recommit ourselves to what we want to do with our lives. I think everyone should have to do every now and then - put pen to paper and, in one page, create a statement of purpose.

Here's my statement similar to what I've sent in for my grad application:

Growing up in the suburbs of Vancouver, I always relished venturing into the city where everything was busy, vibrant, and where everyone seemed inherently connected. Being mixed-race and queer, the city became an important place for me. Within its diversity, it offered acceptance, support and a sense of community. By contrast, my suburban neighbourhood lacked many of the city’s livable qualities. My interest in planning stems from this disparity: the challenges that our cities face in creating inclusive, sustainable and livable places. I want to help redefine and revitalize our cities.

I intend to study the ways in which existing development can be retrofitted to incorporate sustainable design and Smart Growth practices, such as infill and mixed-use development. Similarly, I want to study how we can make our suburban communities healthier, safer, and less auto-dependant by providing more active transportation options through better environmental, land-use and transportation planning. Portland’s ‘Green Street’ strategy is an innovative example that incorporates many of these concepts. Projects and ideas like this ignite my passion for planning and reaffirm my commitment to this career path.

My academic and professional experiences have provided me an excellent platform from which to pursue urban planning. My undergraduate degree in history has taught me to passionately pursue my curiosity, to think critically but with an open mind and how to understand complex, interrelated issues. I directed my studies to analyze the history of the urban form; to better understand the forces that have shaped our cities. For planners, history gives them an understanding of the past, which can help them to anticipate how actions they take today may affect the future. Since graduating, I have become an active member of Vancouver’s community of planning professionals and enthusiasts.

In 2009, I joined the Vancouver Public Space Network, a grassroots collective that engages in outreach and education on public space issues. Through my volunteer work on matters such as the separated bike lanes in downtown Vancouver, I learned about the intricacies of advocacy through civic engagement and public consultation. I was also accepted into the SFU & City of Surrey Transportation Lecture program. I had the chance to learn directly from planning professionals and city staff about regional development issues, transportation planning and their day-to-day operations. I was chosen to make a presentation on ‘Complete Streets’, which also proposed a design to make Surrey’s King George Boulevard a more inclusive space for all road users. In addition, I maintain a blog ( that has over 100 posts on topics ranging from active transportation to urban design. It has become a useful and successful outlet for my interest in urban planning while also honing my writing, research and analytical skills.

 I hope to use the skills and experience gained from a Master’s degree to bring innovative ideas and sustainable practices to cities across Canada and the world. I want to work with communities of all sizes to help them face the challenge of transforming their built environment to balance the needs of society, the economy and the environment.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Event: What's Up with the Viaducts?

***Sorry for my lack of posting lately - busy time at work!***

A few weeks ago, I helped lead a walking tour for the Museum of Vancouver on a topic that revolved around the history and future of the Georgia Viaduct. The City seems to be gearing up to a public consultation process on the future of this piece of infrastructure that was created for a Vancouver that doesn't exist - one with freeways. The SFU City program and the City of Vancouver are holding a free forum. There is no doubt that the viaduct's future is hugely significant to Vancouver's built environment. Its conception was wrought with protest and controversy and its future will probably be too, so bring your ideas to the table. See below for details.  
What are the options for the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts? What would be the impacts if they were taken down – and what are some of the opportunities that would result?

The SFU City Program is hosting a free forum for the public, in conjunction with the City of Vancouver, on April 7 – 7 pm - in the Fletcher Challenge Theatre (515 West Hastings).

You’ll hear the results of a study initiated by City Council on the transportation issues. And, from the Board of Trade, you’ll hear the latest results from a survey that showed how Vancouver has changed its travel patterns before and after the Olympics. Architect Bing Thom and planner Larry Beasley will discuss how the area could be reconceived – and the possibilities for the surrounding communities.
You’ll have the opportunity to add your thoughts for consideration by the City before next steps are taken.
To reserve a seat, register here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Art: Roundabout Vancouver

My friend just forwarded this link to me and it's about the WE: Vancouver exhibit that's currently on at the Vancouver Art Gallery. It's a fascinating bunch of images that show roundabouts in Vancouver that seem so odd because they're monolithic trees in the middle of paved streets.

About the exhibit:
Roundabout Vancouver
The Goodweather Collective is a group of emerging designers who work across media and disciplines with a consistent interest in the built environment and the analysis of its construction. With a finely tuned sense of humour, they have constructed a recasting of Vancouver’s traffic roundabouts that takes us on a detour through time and space to imagine another type of city.
This imagined place is created through a network of roundabouts, one at every existing intersection. While the present City of Vancouver sanctions various treatments for the centre space of roundabouts—community gardens, a monumental rock, and so on—in this “retroprojective” proposal, The Goodweather Collective offers us an alternative vision of the not-so-distant past, one wherein forward-thinking city planners leave an old-growth tree at the centre of each future roundabout.
With this simple and imaginative gesture we can envisage an entirely different city, one in which the massive trees are no longer a rarity but instead define and shape our movement through the urban fabric. While the singular presence of each tree is remarkable, their collective existence is a legacy comparable in size and density to that of Stanley Park. Through this detour the city becomes a forest and the forest a city. 
Founded in 2010 and based in Vancouver, The Goodweather Collective is, in their own words, a group of friends. The collective works in an increasingly free and expanding field of ideas taking many forms, from architecture to apps, floating dining pavilions to alpine shelters, posters to pamphlets, and zeppelins to fleece umbrellas.
I once spent a summer working for the City of Surrey Archives digitizing their photograph collection and I was amazed at what the land used to look like before settlers arrived. Every tree was a 'giant' tree.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Vertical Villages

Vertical Village by Yushang Zhang, Riemer Postma, Rajiv Sewtahal and Qianqian Cai
I moved last Monday and immediately noticed some great difference between my old apartment and my new one. For one, the great variety of local restaurants and business within a few minutes walk. We arrived at the new place a bit too early and had to wait about an hour to gain access to the suite so we opted to get some late lunch/early dinner and we had a little difficulty in choosing as place to eat at. At my old place, you'd have a few options and then the mall foodcourt (yuck). In the suburbs, where I grew up, you'd have to drive to a restaurant and there would be a low chance that the people around you were your neighbours. I feel like the places around my new places are frequented by the people that live in the that neighbourhood and therefore, there's a stronger sense of community - of people you know in the places you know.

After we ate, we walked back and began to unload the truck. Residents were coming and going and many of them stopped to talk. One of them welcomed us to what she called a 'Vertical Village'. And, as corny as it sounded, she was right. People seemed familiar with each other and used the public areas of the building to interact.

For those that are adamant that you would only get that kind of community interaction in the suburbs, I would suggest they're wrong. As a product of the 'burbs, I never really felt a strong connection to my neighbours (even after living next to them for most of my life). People mostly kept to their own space, safe behind their fences. In an apartment building, everyone uses the same spaces to come and go, to check their mail, etc. The possibility of making connections is infinitely greater.

Let's here it for the vertical village.