The World of *Mageddons

Most things change, but some never do. It’s time for a (nearly) serious review of the World of *Mageddons™ .  We’re happy to do it, so that you don’t have to, and since few others will call this type of failed prediction what it is:  failed.

What this *mageddon review does illustrate is the difficulty for anyone in public life who makes decisions.  While it’s easy to dream up *mageddon scenarios, it’s much harder to plan, make decisions and commit big resources amid strident choruses of negativity, and amid the usual incomplete information and the fundamentally unknowable nature of the future.

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David Bowie in Brooklyn,David Bowie in the Subway Station

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Trust New York City to lead the way. In this post from Curbed.com the David Bowie retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum has used its starpower to transform the Broadway-Lafayette subway station in an ode to Bowiedom.

There are also  five different transit MetroCards that have been Bowie branded, and those have been released in a limited edition of 250,000 not consecutively but randomly. The  Broadway-Lafayette subway station’s walls are full of photos of Bowie’s remarkable performances, images and life. And here’s the coolest part, this subway station was the one closest to Bowie’s New York City home. You have until May to see this unique collaboration of images that have been curated with the co-sponsorship of Spotify. Spotify is also introducing the “David Bowie Stories” series, looking at the musical icon’s life, tales and essays in concert with photos and videos from the David Bowie Archive. This subway artshow/branding has been an effective blend of pop culture history and art. Here is an opportunity for other  transit systems pick up the idea of crossmarketing cultural events and exhibitions, making art in transit more accessible to all.

Below is a six-minute YouTube video of a transit walk through the Bowiefied Subway Station.

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Arbutus Greenway — Concept Design Preview

After buying an abandoned, inacessible railroad, taking out the rails and ties, building a temporary set of paths, and holding 25 outreach events involving over 5,000 participants — it’s time to get a gander at some serious plans.  Read on, indeed, to a 38-page PDF that’s chock full o’delights.

It still amazes me that there is so much within a 5-minute walk or a short bike ride of the Greenway (check out the nifty map on page 2).  And I’m very pleased to see serious thought has gone into connectivity from the Greenway to the bike lanes on the north and the south — and all of them in-between.

It’s not specifically mentioned, but I really do hope that the design will find a way include those celebrated Heritage Blackberries.

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Subway to UBC [Updated]— In Serious Talks

Similar to YVR Airport’s approach, UBC may decide to kick in some money and other inducements and approach senior governments to help pay for running the Broadway subway from Arbutus to UBC. The distance is around 7 km, a longer distance than the currently-underway Broadway Millennium Line extension that stops at Arbutus.

Perhaps the owners and developers of the 92-acre Jericho Lands should get onboard for this ride —  making their development transit-oriented, benefitting themselves and benefitting the city as a whole.

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Amazon Repurposing Vancouver’s Downtown Post Office?

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In a 21st century  reboot of the 20th century icon, the downtown post office on Georgia Street may be repurposed into office and commercial space for Amazon. It’s a perfect transition for the Amazon model with fulfillment centres that requires trucking bays, easy access on and off the downtown peninsula and a location that employees can easily access by public transportation. The post office has 686,000 square feet and occupies an entire block. The biggest fulfillment centre in Amazon’s stable is in Baltimore Maryland and cover one million square feet.

In this article by John Mackin, “Real-estate sources say the online retail giant wants to add a million square feet of office and commercial space downtown, part of an expansion to double the Vancouver Amazon workforce to 2,000 people by 2020.”

The Vancouver post office was built in 1958 in the International Modern style by the same architects that designed the iconic Marine Building.  The post office’s interiors have two storey ceilings and over two stories of parking. Local historian and author John Atkin astutely surmised ““It was built as a processing and distribution centre. So you had trucks come in, trucks go out, sorting, and big open spaces, so that you could run complex postal-sorting machines and conveyor belts, and all that stuff. So you have almost the perfect existing structure waiting there for a firm that would do stuff like Amazon, which is product in and product out.”

There was a rezoning application for towers  submitted for the site three years ago but that has been put on hold according to the City. In its potential adoption of the downtown Vancouver post office, Amazon gains a distribution centre in the middle of a downtown market boasting the  most population density in Canada.The Amazon remorphing of the post office also opens up opportunities for other archiac post offices across the country that could be repurposed for local distribution centres.

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DogSpotting Trending at College

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Bailey Gumm has written about an accepted trend at the only liberal arts college in Utah. A communications student created a “dog spotting” page  on Facebook asking students to check in when they see a certain canine on campus grounds. “You can get a little upshot of fun every once in a while during your day,” said Enan Whitby, a sociology major. “The fact that the community is so close, it’s nice seeing your friends interact with dogs and thinking, ‘Oh I might run into that dog later today.’”

This college may be unique in that dogs can be seen in the Writing Centre and in the buildings. And it has also attracted neighbours who are not part of the university community but want to see the dogs.  One professor noted “Students have periods of stress and may be away from home where they may have a pet,” Baxter said. “For some students, having dogs they can visit regularly, walk, or cuddle makes a real positive impact on their lives while at college.”

“A 2017 study of more than 3.4 million people, published in Scientific Reports, found that dog owners live longer and have a lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease, according to an article in TIME Magazine. There are also studies that connect the positive impacts of animals on mental health. The Facebook page for the college’s dogspotting can be viewed here.

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Bridget Burdett~Engineers Building Bridges for Community Health

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Bridget Burdett is a New Zealand based civil engineer working in transportation. She is also completing a doctorate in psychology examining the habits of automobile drivers, and studies the linkages between transportation, wellbeing and inclusivity. Bridget has written a treatise on her profession, and its well worth a read. She discusses the fact that Engineering School teaches how to design bridges, beams and foundations, how to make assumptions on data, and how to pick out the best materials. But as Bridget states ” The problem with the engineer’s design method is that it doesn’t work well when your material is a bunch of humans. Civil engineering is useful but only for designing materials with predictable, measurable, consistent properties, like concrete and water.”

“Transportation is about people. Too often what transportation engineers actually focus on is traffic, and cars. We pretend that it’s about people and community, but decisions are based almost exclusively on analysis of traffic volumes, because that’s all the data that we’ve got. What about the trips people don’t make because they don’t have a car, or it’s too expensive, or they get halfway and the footpath is blocked, or because they’re blind and the taxi drivers charge them more than they are supposed to?
Transportation engineers speak volumes about traffic volumes. We know how to find out how many cars and trucks use almost any road in the country. A lot of traffic volume data is publicly accessible, and updated every year. Traffic volume data is only going to get more accessible – google will even tell you how busy roads are, and how busy they typically are at different times of the day and week.”

In exploring the linkages between transportation and engineering, Bridget notes that data needs to be used more by transportation engineers. Statistics on car ownership and low-income can inform where better walking infrastructure can be placed. Correlating hospital admissions data with crash reports, and following up with the health and societal costs of crashes can make better policy decisions on road infrastructure.  Bridget makes an argument that Transportation is a core business,  “but connecting it to wellbeing is nobody’s job. It’s up to the public to demand that connections between transport and wellbeing are stronger, and it’s up to professionals to recognise opportunities to bridge these very important gaps. It’s okay, engineers are good at bridges.”

You can read the whole article here.

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A Strong 6ix — Pushing for Change on Toronto’s City Council

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There’s an interesting movement happening in Toronto, where a small group of millennials is determined to change municipal politics by providing information, engagement, and a platform to learn about and discuss the issues.

Using social media and meme-worthy snippets about politics and participation, the group, which its members call “A Strong 6ix”, is providing a guide to involvement. read on >>