Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Thought from The BC Youth Summit for Sustainable Transportation

A couple weekends ago I attended the BC Youth Summit for Sustainable Transportation as a delegate. I consider myself pretty fortunate to attend such an amazing event and if you have the opportunity to attend in the future, I suggest you take it.

For the most part, the sessions I went to were of high quality and, overall, the event was well organized. The people I met were friendly and extremely passionate about the issues at hand.  If anything, the event reaffirmed to me that I want to do this kind of 'stuff'. I want to create a better world. Oh, and I'd like my future to be as good as my parents had it - all 'wants' are selfish, right?

At the Summit, Sadhu Johnston, the City of Vancouver's Deputy City Manager, gave the keynote speech. In it, he highlighted his career and why he does what he does. One thing that really interested me was a program in Chicago (where he last worked) called the Mayor's Office Fellowship Program for graduate students. He explained how they would work on interesting projects for this city (green initiatives, housing, transportation, etc.). Vancouver started a very similar program this year called the Greenest City Scholars. Then I thought, why just graduate students?

A side-note before I go any further: at the BC Youth Summit, I was somewhat in the minority because I wasn't in school and my degree wasn't in planning, engineering, geography, or environmental sciences. Sometimes, I think that's what is keeping me from getting my foot in the door in planning but I don't let that deter me. I'm going to get there but it may take me a bit longer than others (McGill and Ryerson don't know what they're missing!)

Back to it:

At the end of his presentation, I posed him that exact question. It seemed to stump him. Why not have a similar program for people not in school (re: formal education) but with either the experience or passion to do the same kind of work? Really, I'm asking, "what about me!?" He talked about a deal that the City of Vancouver made with UBC that involved wood-chips. However, I think I have a legitimate point. Why don't we search for talent outside the traditional sources? We seem to think that only people with a piece of paper can do the job and I'd say if you open yourself up to other options, you'd be pleasantly surprised.

The SFU/City of Surrey Transportation Lecture Program I attended last year is a great model to start with (they're accepting applications and I highly suggest it). It allowed people in the community with a passion for transportation/urban planning (from all different kinds of backgrounds) to learn from city professionals about how things work. It was well worth the $50 I paid.

Cities and organizations need to be creative and flexible. People are willing to provide their time and talent but can't because they may not meet certain criteria deemed necessary. The youth of today are ready and we're waiting.
From Illustrated Vancouver blog: Cityscape in Paper, a collage created for the Papergirl Vancouver project by Penelope Harris.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Video: The Sharable Future of Cities

“At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product.”

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Montreal's First Public Square

The First Public Square of Montreal, 1657 - Brandon Yan
Here's a better view of the space as it exists today. If anyone has any history to share, I'd love to get some - I can't seem to google anything worthwhile.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Montreal: Part 3

My trip to Montreal made me fall in love with using a certain four letter word: BIXI. A compound word created from bike and taxi, Bixi is an ingenious bike share program that I cannot stop gushing over.
This town is serious about their Bixi - Brandon Yan
Using Bixi is as easy as swiping your credit card and entering a phone number into the station machine that accompanies all the bikes. You get a code and away you go. It is $5 for 24 hours worth of access. Each time you take out a bike, it's free for the first 30 minutes and after that, there are additional charges. This is a great pricing model (which most bike share programs use) because it encourages short trips. The stations are everywhere, which means you generally don't have to worry about not having a station where you're going:
Now, THIS is density
Also, another positive from Bixi was each station acted as a terrific way-finding system:
You are here/Vous etes ici! - Brandon Yan
These suckers are everywhere! - Brandon Yan
 Suffice it to say, I used Bixi a lot.
Transit or Bixi...Bixi won by a landslide - Brandon Yan
Montreal also makes this system a pleasure to use because it felt like such a bike-friendly city. Granted, I was only really using Blvd de Maisonneuve and Rue Berri (both have separated bike lanes). Here are some photos of the facilities:

I think this is Rue Berri - Brandon
Blvd. de Maisonneuve - Brandon Yan
More Blvd. de Mainsonneuve - Brandon Yan
For this trip to Montreal, Bixi won over transit as my means of getting from point A to point B. It was fun, cheap, and fast. Systems like this tend to take a bit of pressure off of transit systems (not the hard of a choice consider Montreal's Metro has no A/C...umph!). My friend and I actually convinced most of the people we were visiting with to try it and they were astounded at how easy it was.

Bixi made my Montreal trip a blast.

There's something about having the sun at your back and the wind in your face as you zoom across the city at a speed that just right to take everything in.

Vancouver is in the process of getting a bike share program (if we can nix that pesky helmet law) and I am very, very excited about that.

More about the system: 
  • System Name: BIXI
  • Launch Date: May 12, 2009
  • Number of Stations: 400
  • Number of Bikes: 5,000
  • Website: https://montreal.bixi.com/
  • Easy and quick to install or dismantle
  • All components can be easily transported with no impact on the environment or the station's urban surroundings
  • A technical platform can be set up within a matter of minutes
  • Easy to expand
  • Modular technical platforms (Plug and Play) are dropped off and plugged together
  • “Drop and Go” platforms are infinitely expandable
  • Solar-powered pay station
  • Environmentally-friendly
  • RFID wireless real-time connection payment
  • No excavation required
  • Modular technical platforms are portable, and energy self-sufficient
  • Require no preparatory work
  • Simple to use
  • Users can rent bikes or return them at any station
  • Users can consult the Website to find the nearest station to them and/or their destination
  • Users can find out in real time the number of bikes and docks available at any station
  • Users can notify the system at a bike dock of any damaged or defective bike, and choose another one quickly and easily

Friday, August 19, 2011

BC Youth Summit for Sustainable Transportation

This weekend I'll be holed up at UBC (for the most part) at the BC Youth Summit for Sustainable Transportation. Sponsored by TransLink, B.C. Transit, and the Canadian Urban Transit Association, youth from all over BC will come together to learn from professionals and discuss what our transportation future should look like. I'll have the opportunity to attend a few of the sessions:

Lines on a Map: Transit Network Planning
Explore how transit agencies create a transit network, from drawing “lines on a map” to rolling out service. Examples from Metro Vancouver and Greater Victoria will illustrate this process, with a focus on rapid transit investments.
Pedal to the Pavement: Designing for Biking and Walking
Creating great cycling and walking neighbourhoods requires careful design of streets and their biking and walking facilities. Learn about best practices in bicycle and pedestrian planning and try your hand at designing a multimodal corridor.
The Buck Stops Here: Realizing Our Transportation Visions
Cities use many funding sources to pay for their transportation systems. Learn about successes and challenges from around the world and then design and fund your own transportation network.
I'm also going to a Mobile Workshop:
Richmond City Centre: Planning for Transit Oriented Communities Along the Canada Line
Richmond’s recently adopted City Centre Area Plan proposes a new transit oriented downtown planned to maximize the benefits of the new Canada Line rapid transit. Find out about the opportunities and challenges of transforming Richmond City Centre into a compact and vibrant community.
It looks to be a great and jam packed weekend. I'll be tweeting from the sessions (despite the fact that they don't want us to be 'distracted' - I may be a 'youth' but it's also 2011). Follow me @pre_planner. The hashtag will be #BCYS

Friday, August 12, 2011


Michael Bryant / Staff photographer @ Philly.com

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Montreal: Part 2

In my last post on Montreal, I gushed over Montreal's public realm - Well, I'm not done yet! While I was there, it looked like they were putting some finish touches on their group of newly built and spectacularly designed pedestrian/festival spaces that connect a district Montreal has dubbed Quartier des Spectacles.
The Plan - Photo: Brandon Yan
Within this square kilometer of the city, one can find over 80 cultural venues, including 30 performance halls with almost 28,000 seats. The diverse cultural activities of the neighbourhood unfold in indoor venues as well as outdoors, during major events and internationally known festivals. Over 7,000 cultural jobs are found here, from education to creation, cultural production and broadcasting. Reaching out from the central intersection of Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Laurent, the borders of the Quartier des spectacles run along City Councilors, Saint-Hubert and Sherbrooke streets and René-Lévesque Boulevard.

Video: The Beat of SHIBUYA