Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy and New York's Transit System

Last night, like many of you, I watched Sandy pummel the east coast. As it descended upon New York City, twitter began to flow with pictures and stories, all of which seem to come straight out of a bad Hollywood disaster film.


Explosions, fires, wind, and flooding ravaged New York City. I cannot imagine the efforts that will be needed to clean up and get back to normal. In particular, the city's transit system seems hard hit. Salt water and subways DO NOT mix. In a city that relied heavily on its transit system, this is huge. The Atlantic points out that they've even predicted an event of this type would happen in a report that was released last year.

The researchers estimate that, after a storm of this magnitude, it could take the subway system about 21 days to get working at 90 percent functionality. If all potential damage is considered, Jacob and colleagues warn that timeline could increase to several months, and that "permanent restoration of the system to the full revenue service that was previously available could take more than two years."
MTA carries 11 million people on an average day. In a presidential election where the climate was not mentioned once, this is potentially big wake up call.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

An Idea: The Urbanarium

Beijing's Urbanarium
A few weeks ago, the Museum of Vancouver hosted a great event part of a series called Built City. It featured Ray Spaxman and Brent Toderian, talking retrospectively about their times as Vancouver's city planners. It was really interesting to listen to what each of them had to say regarding their career.

I had never heard much about Spaxman (my bad) but he instantly captivated me. He spoke of planning with principles, the difference between managing and leading and, overall, is incredibly humble. He spoke of something he called an 'Urbanarium' (judging buy audience reaction, he's spoken about it many times before). He described as a place with a model of the city where one can learn about cities with a bird's eye perspective:
An urbanarium is an idea that Ray Spaxman and a group of private planners and architects conceived in the early 1980's that was unfortunately never followed through. The idea was to build a scale model of downtown Vancouver, including False Creek and extending to the East False Creek Area. When a development is proposed, the applicant would be required to replace the existing scale buildings on the model with the new proposal so everyone could see the context. ... The model extending along the Cambie Street Corridor would be very helpful as development is proposed over the next few years.
Beijing's Urbanarium
I would love Vancouver to do something like this (physical or digital). I think the Museum of Vancouver would be the place to house such a thing. But why don't we take it further?

My idea of an urbanarium would be coupled with a program that teaches people how their city works and using the city as a laboratory. While we have programs that do this to an extent - the best so far being the City Studio - they're still out of the reach of the majority of people (including me because of the hours needed).

I'd love to base such a program on the Transportation Lecture program that the City of Surrey runs in partnership with SFU. I was part of the inaugural class in 2010 and found it a great experience. It brought people together to learn and interact with city staff and other professional about how transportation works in Surrey. Best part was that there are very few obstacles in the way of participating: low costs, no pre-requisites, workable hours for people with a job or school.

I think people would love to learn about how their city works (or doesn't) and why. It's my dream to help start a program like this in Vancouver.