Archive for the ‘Urban Planning’ Category
This is the third, and final, instalment on my trip to Italy. And, as is common to blogs, it’s backwards, in that Rome is where our trip began.
On the way from the gate where we got off the plane, to the baggage carousel, there were all kinds of the usual retail opportunities that airports offer, and, indeed, depend upon. One of them was for the mobile phone company TIM, that internet research had shown to offer the best value for what I wanted. I bought a SIM card for my smart phone. It cost me 30€ ($46.87) of which about half was prepaid for calls, and the rest for 2G of high speed data (and unlimited low speed thereafter) and unlimited texts for the month. I think. The clerk’s English was barely adequate and all the documentation is, of course, is Italian. I was given documents to sign, and I though I was saying I did NOT want adverts by text. But it was the reverse. I got a daily barrage of incomprehensible offers by text from TIM the whole month. But now I was not dependent on wifi, and could access the internet anywhere. My phone also has Word Lens that is supposed to translate signs and stuff, and was almost entirely useless. I needed something to translate the translations. More than once I was glad of the data link to access Google Maps and sort out not just where we were but what direction we ought to head off in. It also meant that when I booked our trip to Venice, all I had to do was show the conductor on the trains the automated text message the FS system had sent me.
We were picked up from the airport by prior arrangement, and the journey into Rome was one of the scariest experiences I have had in a motor vehicle short of actually being in a collision. Afterwards we solemnly abandoned any thought of renting a car in Italy.
This is on the street where we rented an apartment. This car is not pulling out of a side street. It is parked. It is not unusual to see cars parked on the corner. They more usually park at an angle. The corner is usually the only place where there is a space to park. As pedestrians, we found that we were always taking what in a Canadian context would be very risky activity. If you wait at the curb, cars do not stop. You have to step into the traffic to show you are serious about crossing. Even then, motorcycles and scooters will simply weave around you as you cross. Fortunately many roads are narrow and often parked up on both sides. Most urban areas have one way streets, which result in much faster speeds.
Testaccio used to be part of the ancient Roman port facilities. It was redeveloped at the end of the 19th century as an industrial area with workers’ housing, and hosted the city’s slaughterhouse.
The river was prone to flooding, and the embankment process greatly reduced access to the waterside. Look at the height of the embankment and imagine that imposed on the Richmond dykes: or the waterfronts of Vancouver. Rome had to face floods every spring as it is surrounded by mountains – as we are. The rich lived on the hills: the ghetto regularly got flooded. That changed at the end of the nineteenth century for them. I suspect that it will have to change for us too, and in much shorter order than we are currently contemplating.
Trastevere, on the other side of the Tiber, has this two way cycle and pedestrian trail. I was lucky to be able to catch a cyclist actually using it. The Lonely Planet Guide has this to say about cycling “The centre of Rome doesn’t lend itself to cycling: there are steep hills, treacherous cobbled roads and the traffic is terrible.”
We saw several of these stations, but never any bikes. The only information I can find on line is entirely negative. There were no bikes in 2011 either. Lonely Planet does not mention bikesharing.
Ancient Rome is still in the centre of the City and most is unrestored ruins. This is the Forum – a view taken from Il Vittoriano. What is very noticeable about this view of the Eternal City is the amount of tree canopy, and the absence of modern high rise buildings.
There is a connected network of these streets across the Centro Storico.
I would like to see greater use of these barriers to car use in more cities. Robson St might be a suitable candidate, with trolleybus activation of barriers/signals.
Our neighbourhood had seen some traffic calming with this protected bike lane, and bumpouts for pedestrian crossings. Though you will note the pedestrian taking the more direct, diagonal route across the intersection. I did not actually see anyone use the bike lane, but I admire the vertical stanchions along the curb to prevent any danger of dooring.
There are many famous public spaces in Rome. Below is Piazza Navona – which was at that time the subject of some dispute between the authorities and the artists who rely on the tourists for their living.
Others are very impressive spaces, but seem to serve very little actual purpose. Or perhaps had one once that has now been lost.
This is Piazza del Popolo, once the site of public executions. At least they managed to keep it clear of traffic unlike the similar Place de la Concorde in Paris.
We did use the two line underground Metro. There is a third line now under construction, but progress is slow possibly due to the huge haul of archaeological material uncovered whenever you dig anywhere in Rome. It was reliable in some of the worst traffic disruptions, but not actually pleasant to use due to the crowding and the persistent presence of piano accordion players – some very young children. Begging – and demanding money with menaces at railway stations – is a real problem. We prefer surface travel, but one trip on Tram Number 3 from Piramide (near our apartment) to the Modern Art Gallery at the other end of the line took all morning! Trams do have some exclusive rights of way – but they often have to share them with buses and taxis and seem to have no ability to affect traffic signals.
There are two “albums” on flickr of public transport in general and trams in particular. Rome used to have an extensive tram network, but unlike other cities never abandoned it completely and has upgraded some lines in recent years with modern low floor articulated cars and reserved rights of way. Route 8 through Trastevere is one the better efforts. Our local service, route 3 along Marmorata, was curtailed during our stay due to track maintenance. We did best by choosing some of the designated express bus routes, which simply stop less often than regular services, rather like the B Line. Bus stops in Rome have very detailed information on them about services – but rarely have real time information. And the sale of bus maps is a commercial activity, not a public service. In the event of service disruptions, having a smart phone was no help as no information was available in English.
We did a lot of walking in Rome. There are lots of parks – Villa Borghese for instance, which is no longer an actual villa just its gardens. And we were next to one of the nicer neighbourhoods, Aventino, sort of a Roman Shaughnessy. So we saw a lot of a relatively small area, and not very much of the rest of the city, apart from one trip out of town to Ostia Antica (fantastic) – and on a our return an overnight stay in Fiumicino, which is not really worth visiting if it were not for the airport. The biggest issue was the tourists. Many more people are travelling these days, especially those from Eastern Europe who were once forbidden to travel but can now afford to do so. They all want to go to the same places, so the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Mouth of Truth are beseiged all day. Rome of course still attracts pilgrims. If you are not one of those avoid the Vatican on Thursday mornings when the Pope addresses the faithful in St Peter’s Square and the Colosseum on Mondays when it is one of the few sites that is open. And if you have the guide book and it promises you “secrets” you can bet your life every other tourist has the same guidebook in their own language and is headed the same way. How else to explain the line up to peek through the keyhole of a locked door on a monastery – to get as glimpse of the dome of St Peters, more easily seen from a park a few metres away?
A City Conversation held at SFU downtown today.
Transformed in the 1970s from a declining industrial area into a centre of arts, culture and food, Granville Island is one of Canada’s most popular attractions, for tourists and residents. With Emily Carr University of Art + Design moving from Granville Island to Great Northern Way, and the loss of almost all the old heavy industry, is it time to refresh the island’s eclectic mix and, perhaps, its caretaker administration? In a recent article, the Vancouver Sun suggested exactly that. Or will it be enough to just find a new tenant, or tenants, for the 200,000 square feet of buildings that Emily Carr leaves behind?
To frame the conversation, we have Daphne Bramham, author of the Sun article, architect Norman Hotson, creator of the hugely successful 1970’s design, and Dale McClanaghan, Chair of the Granville Island Trust.
I have put together a quick storify – only 30 tweets and most of them from City Conversations!
Norman Hotson and Dale McClanaghan opened with a presentation that I could not see. The room had standing room only and I was lucky to be squashed into a corner with a seat and a surface for my tablet.
Dale said that development on GI is “mixed up, tumbled and random” by design. It was originally a sandbar used by the Salish for fishing with a potlach house. It bacame Vancouver’s “first industrial park” until in 1977 a federal government initiative started to review how the Island would be used in the future. They included a group of local people in that process. One of the diagrams showed how the configuration of streets is based on how railcars were moved. Materials arrived by barge, were transformed by industrial processors and then transferred to rail. (Or, presumably the other way around.) The original land use plan did not using zoning so much as the idea of “realms”. They mentioned Urbanics [who I have learned were consultants on the study]. They created a set of principles that have covered use and development and are well followed. Now there is an opportunity for a rethink as 20% of the usable floorspace on the island will become vacant as a result of the Emily Carr decision to relocate. Granville Island Trust advisory, less of governance, operational focus CMHC good stewards. It is fundamentally a place for the residents of Vancouver: “if tourists come that’s icing on the cake” tourism development could be a threat.
Another six development sites are currently available. Over 2,000 people took part in the Speak Up public process. The general consluion was that “We should not mess too much with a Good Thing.” Other modes of transportation do need to be improved. Public spaces can also be improved, but its the “best public market in North America” so only minor changes are expected there.
Daphne Bramham. “To me its very personal – from the 1983 job interview when I first came here. I now live near there. I walked across it to get here.” But recently she visited San Francisco and saw the new Ferry Terminal where an old building has been repurposed into a market. While aimed at tourism something about it “feels more modern”. Emily Carr leaving gives us that same impetus to see what needs updating. We need to ask people what they want from a day on Granville Island. It is, she said, “pretty close to perfect. We don’t need to copy other places. We need forums like this.” Need to preserve green space. “I don’t want it to be the Gastown of old. Its our island. We do pay a premium to shop there.” She also pointed to the governance model of the port and airport as examples of how federal institutions became locally controlled.
Marguerite Ford opened by asking how the EC site could become an incubator for new businesses
This has been a persistent theme with arts and culture. The problem is that “incubation does not pay its rent.” Balance with nonprofit. Economic model or “where does the money come from?” Local management will need to come from outside CMHC
Someone asked about “spin offs of EC” the library, Opus,
Opus preceeded EC. “It might become a real art store.” One of EC’s staff said the library would move with the rest of the college
No one tenant should dominate
TRAMS Mathew Laird asked if there was anyone who would willing to help fund reopening the Downtown Historic Railway’s streetcar service between Oylmpic Village and GI. He also asked if anyone had considered opening a museum space as they also have a collection of historic buses.
Food, maritime and arts have been the traditional focus but they would not exclude anything.
You don’t build any more parking. Less than half of the people coming to GI drive now.
CMHC could not maintain one old building, so now it’s a parking lot due to lack of CMHC funding.
There is a desperate need for student accommodation in Vancouver – not just for Emily Carr and not just for overseas students. Residences will be part of the new EC site.
A GI printer said that the local CMHC office has no power to make decisions. He wants to rebuild his print works into a sustainable, off grid buidling but can get nowhere locally. He said “students do not contribute to the economy of GI as they are too focussed on thewir school work”. He said the EC buildings could be much needed space for artists, a place to work, purpose built space, tool crib space. He said he was “Totally invested”. The need is for education for people not in school.
Michael Geller asked a question about “respective jurisdiction”
GI is Goverment of Canada land, but there is an agreement with the City – just as there is for the port.
A merchant from the market disgareed with the printer .”Over half of my staff are EC students”. They are also customers for food. “Merchants pay top rents. The market is in fragile state, and we fear of loss of the business EC brings. If the market fails, the island fails.”
Another commenter disagreed on price of produce: she said that local supermarkets charge more
“This conversation should have occurred when the cement plant lease was up”
It is the last industrial operation on False Creek and GI is committed to keeping it.
“I don’t hear proposals.”
We are at an early stage
Frank Ducote housing?
Residents have a different view of “peaceful enjoyment” If housing is developed on GI the other uses will be forced to close
There is a need to dovetail development with South False Creek and the “volatile” harbour area
Gordon Price observed that it could become an LNG terminal [joke]
Transportation is a critical issue
Bob Ransford: we need a new group: Friends of Granville Island
I was disappointed to see so few tweets. It is extremely difficult to keep up with a fast moving discussion when typing one fingered on a tablet, and I was not sure if there was any recording going on. Clearly this is something that stirs up a great deal of interest and emotion. Much more now needs to happen both to tap into the information about how GI works now – lots of facts and data please – and more needs to be understood about what is likely to be doable on this site. Clearly, given the lack of resources available from CHMC who cannot even maintain the buildings they’ve got, a new local champion – or group of champions needs to take over. I suspect that the federal government will only be too pleased to download the Island to local organization. It also needs to be independent of the City, in my opinion, to maintain that “its for the local community” first feeling. The greatest threat I see is that someone like Tourism Vancouver or a BIA takes over.
Daphne Bramham is misguided if she thinks the port or YVR are examples of how good things are done in a local community. Neither is the slightest responsive to local needs or desires – and both are direct threats to our region’s sustainability. They are solely focussed on their bottom line and growth.
While I have the greatest sympathy for TRAMS and the DHR, I think what is needed are much better links back into the community. That means something much better than the #50 bus. It also needs to be understood that the DHR is not somehow in competition for funding with the Broadway Subway, on which the City has decided to focus all its efforts. There are different markets and different needs. The DHR is the equivalent of the San Francisco cable car. Jarret Walker expresses clearly the difference between cable cars and actual local transit.
The huge, underused parking lot at Olympic Village Station is the resource I would bring into play. The use of this lot to meet the parking needs of the island would free up space and make the rest of the mixed use traffic areas much less car centric. The “woonerf” idea is working on the island – traffic speeds are slow and collisions infrequent. But that does not make walking pleasant. Nor does the amount of space devoted to parking make best use of a very limited resource. It seems very strange to make people pay for the space under cover but encourage people to circulate looking for “free” 1 hour, 2 hour and 3 hour spots. I would reverse the priorities. Much of the traffic is currently people looking for parking spots. Put longer term parking at Olympic Village and ensure that the parking stub acts as a free shuttle ticket for a modern tram service. Of course the service must be restored to Main Street too – and some extension will be needed at both ends. Sorry Starbucks.
The role of the ferries was pointed out. We have used them a lot, but because I got lucky and won free tickets. I am not sure I would be quite so ready to pay their fares so often. Ideally there ought to be integration of the tram shuttle, ferries and Translink. It’s the sort of thing the Swiss manage easily: and did so long before the days of smart phones and wifi.
I think the idea of “a day on Granville Island” is appalling. I would not want to spend more than three hours there – and that is when two of those hours are at the theatre (we have season tickets for the Arts Club). We go there frequently, we shop at the market, eat at the SandBar, Bridges, Whet … We buy bread at the bakery, fresh fish and produce at the market. There is a terrific hat shop, and brilliant place for old fashioned pens and paper. We like walking the seawall, so its a good stop along the way for that – and one of my favourite walks along the old BCER Arbutus right of way, when I dream of what it could have been and might be again. Its also a short walk to Kits for the beach or the Bard. It is not sui generis. It is part of the city – and a very significant component of its urbanity. It looks like the change in the beer rules that a visit to the brewery might last a bit longer in future.
Granville Island is great but it is not now, nor ever has been “perfect” and the very idea is anathema to me. It has to be constantly changing and adapting, but true to its values. It is NOT about “objectives” or “targets” or ROI. It is about being aware of a sense of place and how to keep it vibrant and vital.
Upcoming event at Richmond City Hall, which I will be unable to attend
On Thursday, May 15, Charles Montgomery, author of Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design, will explain how cities influence how we feel, behave, and treat other people in ways most of us never realize. Preceding this talk will a brief performance by the Indigenous vocal ensemble, M’Girl.
All events will be held at Richmond City Hall Council Chambers, located at 6911 No. 3 Road at 7 p.m. They are free to the public and seating is limited.
To RSVP, please email lulu (at) richmond.ca .
Since 2003, The Lulu Series: Art in the City has presented international, national and regional speakers including acclaimed artists, architects, urban planners and other cultural leaders. From urban planning and placemaking to art as community development and urban revitalization, The Lulu Series: Art in the City explores the relationship between art and our urban environment.
For more information, visit www.richmond.ca/luluseries
I have put the headline in quotation marks as it does not reflect my opinion – nor does it seem to be based on a very reliable way of forecasting policy outcomes. The headline comes from Atlantic Cities but the research itself is published in Environmental Science and Technology. The title there is “Spatial Distribution of U.S. Household Carbon Footprints Reveals Suburbanization Undermines Greenhouse Gas Benefits of Urban Population Density” (citation shown at foot of this article). And of course you and I do not have the right credentials to actually read this on line unless you are willing to pay a very hefty fee. But at least Berkeley provides a longer item than Atlantic Cities does and this is where their quotes are lifted from
As you will note, other readers have already taken exception to the conclusions that are quoted by Atlantic Cities, so I am not alone at being troubled by the attention getting headline. Because it does not seem to be adequately supported. I also am troubled since I have been advocating and teaching the exact opposite for many years now. First as part of the Community Energy Planning activities of the BC Energy Aware Committee – now the Community Energy Association – and latterly as part of a program for people wanting to become Sustainable Building Advisors under the the LEED program, sponsored by the Canada Green Building Council. The thrust of my message has been – and still is – the putting up the greenest building possible is not going to achieve emission reductions if you put it in the wrong place and everyone has to drive to get there. Sure the building itself may perform flawlessly but the trips the building’s activities generate will more than make up for the energy savings achieved over more conventional technologies.
Denser urban areas do indeed perform far better – in terms of energy consumption and hence reduce greenhouse gas emissions – than less dense ones, and that is exactly what the maps that accompany the article show.
This just happens to be Denver – and you can also see the smaller city of Colorado Springs off to the left (west) which shows the same doughnut ring pattern of carbon emissions. And they do observe “large metropolitan areas have a slightly higher average carbon footprint than smaller metro areas.” But that may just be that in the US (and the data they use only comes from there) the larger metro areas have proportionately more suburbs.
People who live in denser urban areas do not need to make as many trips by single occupant motor vehicles as those who live in less dense areas. People who work in city locations are much less likely to have drive during their work hours than those in suburban office parks. If you can get what you need within a short walk then you are less likely to need to drive. In places like downtown Vancouver, the vehicle most likely to be used for most trips is the electric elevator. Moreover building technologies and simple physics favour denser areas notably when the designers are thinking holistically. Community energy systems are more efficient than individual systems. The village on False Creek, for instance, gets some of the heat for its buildings from the sewers. Many buildings in city centres need more cooling than heating, so careful siting and interconnectedness produces a better overall outcome than locating them at greater distances where this is not efficient in economic or energy terms.
But there are also all sorts of other benefits from greater densities. Indeed density in and of itself may not be the answer. Better density – the right kind of density – is almost always going to have better results no matter what metric you use. We happen to be concerned in this case with reducing greenhouse gas emissions but exactly the same responses work if you are looking to create a happier human environment, or one that preserves land for food production or recreation, or reducing traffic congestion, or cutting public expenditures. The arguments made by Charles Marohn for Strong Towns are almost entirely financial.
Actually I think what is really at play here is Atlantic Cities looking for a headline rather than better understanding. What the researchers are actually saying is that there is no one size fits all solution and that increasing density does not of itself produce the best outcomes. But it is also clear that continuing with business as usual, widening freeways and building new ones, refusing to invest in transit, sticking with strategies that favour “drive until you qualify” suburbs and so on is a recipe for disaster. And increasing density is often going to be a significant part of the solution.
Christopher Jones *† and Daniel M. Kammen *†‡§
†Energy and Resources Group, ‡Goldman School of Public Policy, and §Department of Nuclear Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, United States
Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP
Publication Date (Web): December 13, 2013
Copyright © 2013 American Chemical Society
*Phone: (510) 643-5048. E-mail: email@example.com., *Address: Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3050. Phone: (510) 642-1640. Fax: (510) 642-1085. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was actually my first visit to the SFU Woodwards campus: tribute was paid to Warren Gill – this was the third lecture in his honour – and he was credited with the initiative to establish SFU in downtown and in Surrey.
Attendees were encouraged to tweet using the #sfucity hashtag. I have produced a storify from them. Credit should also go to SFU for providing free wifi access. Thank you.
Chief Planner and Executive Director
City of Toronto
At SFU Woodwards
Cities are our greatest hope and our greatest risk. Vancouver and Toronto (where the mode share for transit is 23.3% for the journey to work is comparable to ours when using the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) rather than the city.
She has identified critical success factors that are going to be necessary for securing a different future to business as usual.
Canadian cities are suburban, auto oriented. We are not as rich we thought we were. WE have a number of perverse subsidies that have led to suburban sprawl. We need to increase density to increase the utilisation of existing infrastructure. Areas that don’t change will be left behind. The legacy we are leaving our children can be seen in the weather. Echo boomers want something different whether the city changes or not.
Illustration of city suburbs “expensive mistakes”. [For an instructive comparison see also the recent SFU lecture by Charles Marohn on "Strong Towns" which is one I missed but the video has now been posted on the Stroad to Boulevard tumblr.]
In the city of the future everything will be within short distance, which means less commuting and more time for everything else. Is this vision what our suburbs might become? We continue to build suburbs. Consensus on how to change eludes us.
Three Critical Success Factors
1 the need to believe in a better future
She used the frequently cited prescience of the builders of the Bloor viaduct, which had the ability to accommodate the subway under the roadway 48 years before the subway opened. [As a transportation economist I have a somewhat different view of overbuilt infrastructure]
“I don’t get the baby platforms of the Canada Line” [I agree with her there]
Leaders don’t use polling to determine direction
2 the need to cultivate deep understanding about drivers for change
Clear coherent vision for the future essential for consensus. Walkable neighbourhood is better term than ecodensity
Learning and respect – fundamental to democracy
3 the need to engage to build broad and deep constituencies for city building
Chief planner round table
Our urban fabric
Next generation suburbs
Partnered with LEGO
One imaginative giveaway was used for on platform TTC surveys and other locations giving respondents free pack of tissues with the feeling congested? web site address on them.
80% of those polled after this exercise now agree with new funding sources for transit
[Saw this today in the National Post "I don’t much care where the money comes from, just tax me however you see fit and build, for God’s sake."]
Belief understanding and engagement
Individual action ..every time you make a choice
Collective action .. Finding ways to shape political decision making
q Do City staff follow the advice of living where they work?
a City of TO is actually very weak at walking the talk for staff. Divisions working together on Complete Streets initiative building internal consensus. Water
q What Provincial and Federal policies are needed?
a Social housing … Regent park … Impossible for muni tax base to support affordable housing. Transit funding reward for density.
a Compare the NY subway to TTC and Canada line. Capacity!!
q Affordable housing
a Mid rise stick construction lower price point
q How to frame conversation with professionals
a Not everything worked … you have to take risks
Look at what worked best practices as reference
Right now took it in house with councillors to ward level workshops
TO has not been as ambitious as other cities to get great buildings ( “Despite the talk, it’s now clear Keesmaat has succumbed to the same timidity that has kept Toronto from achieving the greatness it so badly wants.” Christopher Hume Toronto Star)
Canadian cities do pretty well
Building is not the lynch pin
Great urbanism is about the neighbourhood not the building. [She said that we visit New York to see Greenwich Village or Soho not just the iconic buildings. Don't say that to the people who run the Empire State Building, or Rockefeller Centre, or the Lincoln Centre. Or am I alone in being an architectural tourist?]
Profound mistakes with heritage
“I’m very concerned with the implication that sexy buildings define a city. I don’t have stars in my eyes about starchitects.”
Gehry thinks that only two buildings in Toronto are worth preserving
q Cities to watch?
a Washington DC currently mid rise but now looking at variances for high rises
Portland OR they did it in the seventies. They stuck w the plan
New York resilience legacy of Blomberg
Removing cycling lanes “Other people do dumb things too!”
Vancouver West End plan
Old Montreal “architects with a gentle touch”
I apologize for driving you to a paywalled article. Francis Bula is reporting on what Geoff Freer (executive project director for the Massey project) says about replacing the tunnel and why transit won’t meet that “need”
60 per cent of the commuters are travelling to Richmond or Surrey, the U.S. border or the ferries – so are unlikely to use transit anyway.
The chutzpah of this statement takes one’s breath away.
It is not as if the Canada Line was not already changing travel patterns in Richmond. And the introduction of useful inter-regional connections to the transit system (over many years since it was entirely focussed on downtown Vancouver) with direct service to Metrotown and Newton shows that when the transit system actually looks at how people are moving, as opposed to used to move, even ordinary bus services can be successful. When I first arrived in Richmond and had to commute to Gateway in Surrey I initially tried the #410. Then it was infrequent, with a huge one way loop through Richmond wand was always very lightly loaded. Over the years it has become one of the busiest bus services in Richmond and the only one in the Frequent Transit Network.
The other huge change was when Translink backed off the long held belief that it ought not to compete with Pacific Stage Lines and run a direct bus between the ferry at Tsawwassen and downtown Vancouver. The new service they introduced initially required a transfer to the B-Line at Airport Station, and now requires a transfer to the Canada Line at Bridgeport. It coincided with increased vehicle fares on the ferry so that walk-on traffic grew exponentially. (BC Transit had long met ferries with an express bus from Swartz Bay to downtown Victoria). The #620 now requires articulated buses and frequent relief vehicles. Just like the express bus to Horseshoe Bay.
As for cross border services, it would be easy to set up a “walk across the line service” at Peace Arch, with connections to Bellingham. There are just much more pressing priorities – mostly getting students to post secondary institutions thanks to UPass. But bus service across the line has seen significant commercial traffic with both Bolt bus and Quick Shuttle in head to head competition. Some of the casinos down there run their own shuttles too. The best thing that has happened so far on this route has been the introduction of a morning Amtrak train departure for Seattle.
What is actually needed is transportation planning that looks at the future pattern of development in the region, and integrates land use planning to meet population growth and travel needs. Strangely the desire of Port Authority for deeper draft for vessels in the Fraser River is not the first and foremost consideration. Port expansion is not a driver of economic growth. It is path towards calamity, since it is driven by the desires of a few very rich people to export yet more fossil fuel at a time when anyone with any sense recognizes that we as a species have no choice but to leave the carbon in the ground.
I think that one of the great benefits of rail transit development would be protection of the last bits of highly productive agricultural land left after the ruinous performance of the BC Liberals to date. People riding on trains get fast frequent service through areas which see no development at all, because it is concentrated around the stations. What part of Transit Oriented Development do you NOT understand, Mr Freer? Expand the freeway and sprawl follows almost inevitably.
It is perhaps a bit hard for people here to understand the idea of fast frequent electric trains that are not subways or SkyTrain, but they are a feature of most large city regions – even in America. As we saw in yesterday’s post even LA is bringing back the interurban. West Coast Express is not a good model as it only serves commuting to downtown on weekdays. All day every day bi-drectional service demands dedicated track – or at least the ability to confine freight movements to the hours when most people are asleep.
Transit to Delta and South Surrey has to be express bus for now, just because there is so much catch up in the rest of the region. But in the longer term, really good, fast, longer distance electric trains – which can actually climb quite steep grades equivalent to roads over bridges – must be part of planning how this region grows. It requires a bit better understanding of the regional economy than just assuming that somehow coal and LNG exports will secure our future, when they obviously do no such thing.
I do try to get out to the often SFU organized public lectures and similar events, partly just to keep my brain engaged but also because the existence of a blog demands content. And it should not all be pointing to other web pages. Well, not all the time anyway. I usually go in person, but on this occasion there was a webcast. It was a live event and I do not know if at some later stage it will be on the web as a video.
However, I do think that the webcast itself says a lot about the process.
Greenest City Conversations, an innovative, interdisciplinary and wide-scale research project aimed at developing multiple channels for public engagement on municipal sustainability policies. Its two main goals were to facilitate discussion with the public on a variety of sustainability policies, and to provide a comprehensive understanding of the content and impact of different modes of public engagement.
Some of those modes involve “social media” – or information technology if you will. And on this occasion new technology was showing both its best and worst sides. Things got started on time with the usual throat clearing and acknowledgements which always seem to me to be protracted but, grudgingly, necessary. A lot of people were involved, and a lot of material was going to be covered. Some of it was already of questionable value as it had “failed to meet its objectives”. It is not clear quite what that was about as the first speaker is already showing that she was unaware that there was a webcast. Instead of the right laptop (there were two) she has her own tablet and she is talking about how much time children already spend with tablets. The people at the Wosk Centre are being shown pictures, but these are not being broadcast despite a split screen arrangement.
Then the whole screen goes blank – for quite a long time – and when the webcast restarts someone else is talking about land use and how to use “stamps” to create Utopia. What she has been dealing with is the standard problem in public consultation. The only people who come out to open houses or public meetings are the people who come out to open houses and public meetings. You feel you are talking to the same five people. The issue is one of engagement – how to reach a more significant number of people. It is also cleat that what we are currently facing is not simply a top down “education” program, where the experts who know what must be done convince the unwashed of the necessity of cooperation in a predetermined solution. They found, unsurprisingly that of they used new media like Facebook, more women wanted to be involved. If they used smart phones more young people got involved. I was especially frustrated to miss much of the talk on the City’s transportation plan which engaged people by asking them if they were happy with their commute and if not what they thought could be done about it. (Exploring Vancouver’s Transportation Future) Apparently there was a “heat map” which answered the question “Is Facebook Useful” but I didn’t get to see that: all I saw was a talking head.
The next presenter had managed to persuade people to be tracked by using their smart phones to study their travel patterns and modes. They tried getting them to answer questions like “paper or plastic?” when they went shopping but – not surprisingly – people seem to be a little tired with that one. I think it would really have helped me stay interested if this presentation had not been mostly him reading great grey slabs of text – and apologizing to the audience for the tiny size of his illustrations which were not visible at all on line.
Then we got into land use. They tried to engage citizens in place based design. In fact the city had already decided to update the Grandview-Woodlands and Marpole neighbourhood plans. We have of course discussed those at length here. They did this by creating a “sandbox” – a generic neighbourhood of as a 2D and 3D board game. They had only three variables – Land Use, Energy and Quality of Life. The City has, of course, already set its goal of a 33% reduction in GHG by 2020 so the only question is what does that do for our quality of life. I cannot tell you the answer as the PhD candidate is still working on his thesis – so watch for more on the next webcast.
The workshop materials are available online at http://gcc.sites.olt.ubc.ca/findings-and-results/exploring-neighbourhood…
The last speaker was actually in Newfoundland and joined in by Skype and managed to illustrate all the the things you should not do during a live webcast – including setting up an infinite feedback loop, and allowing the dial tone to be heard while someone else was speaking. I think that they might be better off giving the professionals at the SFU Creative Centre the evening off and bringing in a bunch of Grade 12 students to handle the technology. He was the presenter who had the enviable task of introducing art into the proceedings. He managed to use the words epistemologies, disingenuous and disenchantment all in the same sentence without creating poetry. Apparently we have to “shift away from linear engagement”. He asked how do we arrive at “truth” and “value” – and to help in that had hired a poet, an architect, a composer and a theatrical troupe. They produced “You Are Very Star” at the Space Centre which I told you about when I covered Northern Voice.
The issue you see is that no-one actually knows what a sustainable community is: what it looks like or what it might be like to live in. One of the things that artists are supposed to be good at is imagining possibilities. What baffled me is why no-one thought of bringing in some science fiction writers. I suppose they thought that might be too depressing for words. Certainly a recent collection of stories about a warmed up planet is not proving to be useful bedtime reading for me.
The final speaker was supposed to have produced “Cross Channel Evaluation” which he characterized as “herding academic cats”. In the end he decided to concentrate on the outreach to various age groups – as long as they were over 19 (something to do with the ethics of market research) which sadly left out all the kids involved in the first project. The people reached by this research were by no means representative of the population of the City but this is apparently not a Big Issue. The – very unsurprising – conclusion – digital channels attract younger people compared to public meetings and web based surveys. He compared processes and not outcomes since those are “emergent” and “contingent”. Because the process is pluralistic and poses open ended questions.
In the sum up John Robinson said that his intention was to scale up the process so that it could reach a significant number of “citizens of all stripes” – 200,000 would be good – in an interactive dialogue. The issue is no longer a one way flow outward as “we don’t know the story” that we have to get out to the people. They have to be engaged in creating the story – What Can Sustainability Really Mean?
Q & A
The first question related to the “white coat” (expert) syndrome – apparently participants in the studies did not see the researchers in that light.
The second commenter noted that none of the proposal to reduce GHG emissions seemed to aimed at big business “They got us into this mess”. The response was that people who participated did not share that view and were interested in learning about what they could do.
The City had already established its goal, so that framed the problem which meant the studies were about which levers you can pull. In some respect this created a “sense of security for government folks” concerned about an open ended process.
The distinction has to be made between “persuasive communication” versus an “emergent dialogue”. We do not know what a sustainble community is, and therefore we have to work with people in deciding what kind of community we want.
PICS wanted to encourage questions from those watching on line and suggested they use @PICSCanada as the twitter feed. They did not specify a hashtag. I subscribed to that feed and saw no activity – in fact they still have not said anything since I subscribed and the only commentary on it last night was from @carbontalks. Do you really think these folks know enough about how social media works?
In response to another question the response about the attitude of children was that they did not see “some predetermined world that their parents had messed up.”
A very keen observation was by someone who had seen the “Fantastic Four” movie and the enthusiastic public response to it. He compared that to participation in in local government planning consultation. But conceded the movie cost $100m to make. “Does it take that much to get people involved?”
The response was withering. The people who saw the movie plunked down $12 and gave up two hours of their time to be entertained. The commitment was wide but very shallow. This contrasts with the high level of commitment required in the processes they had been studying – the questions were not so much about cost but motivation and payback. Much of this came from the researcher who had worked on the transportation channel and I wish now that i had been able to hear more of her presentation.
The final question (and by now we were well into overtime) “Will the real and the imaginary use the same arithmetic?”
John Robinson: Getting the real into people’s heads won’t stop but we are looking at something emergent. It is worth noting that in mathematics the elegance of a solution is also an important consideration. We need to wary of the Dragnet theory of truth “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”
The next webcast will be on October 23rd at 6pm check the PICS website.