Saturday, April 20, 2013

Next Generation Transportation: Election Impressions

This past Sunday, I attended an event called "Next Generation Transportation: All-Party Forum". Put on by Carbon Talks, Sustainable SFU, and SFU Public Square, they had a politician from all the major political parties in BC discuss transportation (it was far too amicable to call it a debate):

Mary Polak, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure 
Jane Sterk, Leader of the Green Party of BC
Duane Nickull, MLA candidate for Vancouver-Point Grey, of the BC Conservative Party
Harry Bains, opposition critic for Transportation and Infrastructure, BC NDP

Mary Polak knew her stuff and, not only that, she can speak rather well. She's an effective communicator and her only mis-steps were really policy ones (and her one reference of the Broadway Corridor as the Burrard Corridor). Two things really struck me as reasons to not vote BC Liberal. One, she called the Port Mann bridge a significant investment in cycling infrastructure. This completely laughable and I doubt that the Minister has ever cycled through a city in her life. Second, she reiterated her party's plan to hold a referendum on transit funding. However, she detailed that the referendum would actually not give the public a veto on funding but rather it would be a list of options and we would pick our preferences (even though the day after this event, the Premier said it would be a veto).

Referendums should not be used in lieu of making hard decisions that, in fact, you are elected to make. This is called passing the buck.

Jane Sterk was impressive if only for her commitment to the broader ideals of sustainability. I'm pretty sure she was the only one that acknowledged climate change, as well. Her handle on transportation issues didn't seem to be very strong but it was great to see the leader of the Green Party take on such an important topic. I would have liked to have seen someone from Metro-Vancouver speak in her place but maybe that's asking too much?

Duance Nickull is a bit of an enigma. He's running for the BC Conservative Party but was very much for things like transit, electric rail, and bike lanes infrastructure. He later explained that he's more of fiscal conservative (and re-iterated, no way affiliated with the federal Conservative Party). He's a self-described 'Geek' and loves using data to find solutions. I did not like the way he a few other candidate kept saying "I'm no _____ (insert 'traffic engineer, etc.') to get off from not understanding some of the audience's questions.*EDIT* Apparently he's not in favour of more bike lanes.

Harry Bains from the NDP was rather quite docile and couldn't really get his points across very clearly. However, he did nail the question of the referendum. Bains may well be the next Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure but it's clear that he might not entirely understand his portfolio.

These are just my impressions.

The format of the event was perhaps too take for an election. It would have been interesting to mix up the panel of politicians with professionals and community advocates to spice things up - have these people hold the candidates' feet to the fire and make then answer the questions.

Overall, I thank SFU for holding such an important event.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Interactive Data Visualization: Inequality and New York's Subway

Another interesting set of data from the New Yorker:
New York City has a problem with income inequality. And it’s getting worse—the top of the spectrum is gaining and the bottom is losing. Along individual subway lines, earnings range from poverty to considerable wealth. The interactive infographic here charts these shifts, using data on median household income, from the U.S. Census Bureau, for census tracts with subway stations.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Interactive Data Visualization: Metropolitain

Metropolitainis a datavisualization experiment by Dataveyes
One of the most intricate and dense underground networks in Europe, the metro is a central component in the daily life of millions of Parisians. As a result, the official metro map conditions the very way commuters approach time, and space, as they tend to select their journeys based on the perceived smallest distance between two points. This visualization offers to challenge this conventional view. Metropolitain takes on an unexpected gamble: using cold, abstract figures to take the pulse of a hectic and feverish metropolis. 
You are invited to play around with two views: the projected journey time between two stations, as well as the number of people touching in at each station. The metro map is no longer arbitrarily dictated by the spatial distance between two points, but transforms along the user exploration, to reflect its actual accessibility.

This is really, really cool.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Two Months is Too Long!

It's been almost exactly 2 months since I've posted something. I've been pretty busy - working full-time, grad school part-time, and all the other stuff in between. But, really, I've been avoiding putting fingers to keys. It could be that I'm just on an urbanist-overload. Whatever it was, I realized that I missed this. So what's new?

I went through a little mid-grad school crisis in which I thought long and hard about what I really want and considered taking a break from my program to do a 6 month certificate program in Dialogue and Civic Engagement. But I think I'm probably on the right track and I'm going to try and finish my MA in one go.

I'm pretty sure I've settled on a research topic for my MA project. I plan to evaluate the City of Surrey Transportation Lecture Program because I think it's an interesting platform to inform and engage citizens and city employees.

I went to San Francisco for Easter weekend and had a great time. It was my 2nd time staying at an AirBnB place and I highly recommend it. Our host was fantastic and turns out she was friends with the President of BART's Board of Directors and we got to nerd out about transit, cities, and star trek. This was my 2nd time going to San Francisco but this time I got to see much more of the city by foot. Every street is a delight if not just for the gorgeous old apartment buildings. I'll throw up some pictures in a subsequent post.

I've been in the newspaper again talkin' inter-generational struggles...kind of.

This summer, I'll be taking an urban design course with Michael Von Hausen so that should be exciting. Oh, and I've booked flights to Tokyo so I can fulfill my dreams of re-enacting Lost in Translation. I'm pretty exciting about posting every tidbit from that trip.

Hopefully more frequent posting (said every blogger ever).