May 12, 2016

Car2Go goes New York

From The New Yorker:

The car-sharing industry has its roots in mid-century Europe, whose coöperative vehicle pooling was mimicked, in the nineteen-eighties, by American nonprofits and city governments. But only with the spread of G.P.S. and smartphone technologies have today’s private companies been able to produce real efficiencies for the user and measurable benefits for the environment.

In 2010, Susan Shaheen, a transportation expert at the University of California, Berkeley, published a ten-year review of car-sharing data, concluding that the model basically works: those with new access to cars will drive more, but their impact is more than offset by that of car owners who begin using the programs. In other words, were car sharing to replace private car ownership in the city, the effect would likely be more drivers doing less driving. Car2Go bridges the gap between American hearts, which are still piston powered, and the typical American salary, which is just equal to the average cost of a new car.


For a local view, here is a summary from the Urban Land Institute BC of a seminar on car-sharing as part of the ‘Next Million’ series.

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A comment on James’s post Who Speaks for those who are not already here the other day led Ian to think about a related issue: who speaks for those who don’t speak?

Commenter ‘Bob’ made this statement: “I don’t have much sympathy if young people of any colour who live in my neighbourhood can’t be bothered to show up for planning and development open houses. Maybe they should put aside the craft beer for a night if they care at all for their ‘hoods. If they don’t care or can’t be bothered, well they’ll get the city they deserve.” As a young(er) person, who faces a multitude of pressures on my time (and I’m certainly more involved than most), I take issue with this sentiment – especially as it is one you hear voiced quite frequently (… I don’t mean to pick on Bob necessarily, but it’s a good point to try and unpack).

Why should people have to speak to be represented? Everyone has a right to just and fair representation whether they specifically demand it or not. Case in point: babies have rights but can’t verbalize them, neither can the infirm. Is there some magic moment at which point you lose your voice if you don’t make it heard?

Whether we intend to or not, we create ‘clubs’ which exclude people and viewpoints, and without going out of ‘our’ way to include others and their views, we are poorer for it.

On CBC radio this morning, I was hearing about a great sounding event sponsored by Google called XX-UX  … which to me even is only vaguely decipherable … but it is an event to get more women (XX) involved in the User Experience (UX) field (Wikipedia).

(There are a huge number of parallels between UX and Architecture and Planning … I shudder to think how much more brainpower is going into the design of the apps we use than the form and feel and function of the spaces we live in, and seriously wonder if I should do UX in my next life!)

Why should we care who we hear? Using Bob’s line of thinking, maybe the women are off having beer instead of being engineers? (ok, this is a cheap shot, sorry Bob) Seriously though, why is it detrimental when a large segment of the population is not represented?

From the CBC interview:

Stephen Quinn asked “What do women bring to UX design that men don’t?”

Amy Ngai, a UX Designer for AxiumZen, the company hosting the XX-UX event, replied “Its not so much what we bring that men don’t, but we are 50% of the population… and UX design requires you to look at users, it requires you to be empathetic with the people you are designing for, and if I have the experience to understand these people then I can design better for them.”

The more diversity of viewpoints you have, the better you can understand and create and design. You can’t consider a design to be as good as it could be unless you have a broad pool of ideas – this is the classic ‘the next Einstein or Mozart might be living in Africa , but unless they have opportunity, and/or we care to look, we’ll never know’ situation.

If diversity is important in design, and also in looking for Einstein 2.0, should it not also be important in designing buildings, cities, and countries? If only a small part of the population is represented in decision making, if certain areas of the city exclude large parts of the population (or simply don’t include large parts, or those who simply feel excluded, or non-included), how can we consider that society is healthy?

If we care about equity in one area of society, we must also elsewhere … There are examples of inequity almost anyplace one might look … Why are some of these given a pass as being normal, and unavoidable, and just a cost of doing business. (Comments that suggest simply that the solution to affordability is giving up on Vancouver and moving to Hedley or Hope fall in this category)

Whose voices are we missing?

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James can tell you I’ve been an advocate for a pool in False Creek for some time, and every time I have mentioned it among friends, the first remark is ‘ew!’ or ‘I don’t want to go anywhere near that water‘.

How is it possible that we as a city/province/people are comfortable with crap water? (or more specifically, Crap IN our water see here, here, here and here)

There’s plenty of ew out there, but is the solution to never touch the water again, or to consider doing something about the ew!?

I was really happy to see HCMA’s proposal that there be a floating pool in the harbour … I’d never had a chance to draw up my idea, so more than happy that someone local beat me to it. There are plenty of precedents +Pool, Thames Bath, Copenhagen bath by BIG + JDS … and everyone in Basel who floats lazily down the Rhine (which wasn’t exactly clean not that long ago)

The last time I was in Toronto, I was excited to see that there was a huge construction project going on – the Blue Flag Project (I think that was the overall project’s name … I’m struggling to remember the logo on the hoarding) which aimed/aims at making all of Toronto beaches swimmable. As someone who has judiciously swum off of Toronto Islands, and even more judiciously rowed by Ontario place, I can tell you this is a welcome change.

How is this not a thing here? We’re the ‘Greenest’ city, but we have BLACK water?

From the comments in one of the articles about HCMA’s project, with my thoughts:
‘Gross’then we should clean the water.
‘Why anyone would want to swim in Coal Harbour is beyond me’ – well, there’s a nice view, thats a good start. 
‘I don’t think its a smart idea to be building this so close to the floatplane terminal’ – tell that to everyone eating at Cactus Club.

And a comment on one of the facebook posts about HCMA’s proposal stated essentially (I can’t find it specifically) ‘there’s so much gas in the water from the float plane terminal I wouldn’t want to swim there’ – they should stop spilling gas in the water then! After all, any spill that threatens the environmental quality of water, land or air must be reported.

And finally, to plug an event that is happening tonight at the MOV!

What opportunities exist to create innovative, engaging public spaces in one of Canada’s most densely populated and expensive cities? How can a highly livable city surrounded by unparalleled natural beauty be described as “no fun” or have disengaged, unhappy citizens?

Join us for a lively discussion about what’s possible for Vancouver’s public realm, one that engages the water surrounding Vancouver in new ways. At this event presented by HCMA, people will discover the informed research and creative process behind Coal Harbour Deck (on display inYour Future Home), a project that reclaims Vancouver’s water for a new type of urban space. Visitors can have a look at some other initiatives that HCMA is working on to create and enhance public social spaces, and improve Vancouver’s relationship with water. Access to the Your Future Home exhibition is included with admission to this event.

Following the presentation, Mark Busse will facilitate a discussion about how we can, collectively, create new and engaging public spaces in our city as well as a fun activity with a prize for the best audience contribution! Grab a drink from the cash bar, have a snack, dive in to the issues, and let the ideas and conversation flow!

Date: Friday, February 19
Bar open: 6:00-9:00pm
Presentation begins: 7:00pm
Tickets: Access to Your Future Home included with admission: $15 adults; $11 Students & Seniors; Free for MOV Members.

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For one, he was last week’s guest editor.  More specifically, he’s Ian Robertson – the ‘Ian’ in ‘Items from Ian’ occasionally posted on Price Tags.  Some of you wondered, though, why a guest editor would be seemingly anonymous.  Ian responded:


Hi, Ian Robertson here.
It seems my WordPress handle caught some off guard (and honestly, I have no idea how to change how that handle appears when I post WordPress comments whilst logged into my WordPress account).  “Artitectus” (or some variant) is the name under which I do my own design work, and as well as being conveniently similar to the word Architect, it also has its own meaning. According to “The Names of Plants”  artitectus is ‘completely fabricated’ and ‘fully roofed,’  interested at all scales.
Sounds like a good name for a design firm if I ever heard one!
I believe that the term ‘architecture’ has been vilipended to a mere shadow of its former meaning, ‘Architecture’ it is now only for the effete, for the moneyed, and conversely, ‘architecture’ for anyone who works in IT or comes up with ‘solutions’ for things.  This is a shame! There are too many aspects of the world which seem to no longer be designed, they seem accidental, or formulaic, or otherwise created with the least imagination, analysis, and critical thinking as possible.  Now is time for the world of atoms to rediscover the benefits of caring about the design, and not just the dollar.
My bio links:
Now that that’s resolved,  I hope together we can design a better world.

  • Ian Robertson


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“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
This was something a planning professor of mine once told me which I never really thought much about …  that is until I moved to Vancouver.
Hi, let me introduce myself formally, my name is Ian Robertson, and I occasionally show up in these woods with ‘Items from Ian’. I did my Architecture Undergraduate in ‘merica, worked for a while in the Netherlands, MArch in Australia, worked for a while in Vienna, and finished my degree right around the time that the world called an architectural timeout for a while, and I found myself in Vancouver.
What links my experience in these other places is that they all involved looking forward. The aforementioned quote from my planning professor, masterplanning cities and countries while in the Netherlands (itself a product of what must be the most comprehensive masterplan anywhere in the world), then Sydney Australia – where I was first exposed to the kind of 2030 vision which Vancouver also now espouses (except in Sydney’s case, it actually backed up by a Master Plan to give it institutional heft), and finally Vienna, which has a uniform building fabric and density which puts most cities to shame, and which turned the old Hapsburg Stables into a technology and culture and startup hub which exists only in Vancouver’s dreams.
This week I will be under the broad category of ‘Ideas from Elsewhere’ (‘Ian’s Items from Elsewhere’ if I wanted to keep the branding alive) … frankly I am always amazed that there is such a strong desire here to reinvent the wheel instead of looking for what works (and what doesn’t) elsewhere (transit referendums, city planning, existance of a master plan, regional transit, fare gates, bike path design, foreign investment, affordable housing, sea level rise planning, etc… are all examples of issues where in either trying to be unique, or in willfully ignoring precedent, Vancouver/BC is certainly ‘planning to fail’).
So, with that lengthy introduction, I give you my first post, written for a recent architecture criticism competition requiring one to talk about a Library of one’s choice. As you will see, the Library wasn’t really my topic of interest 🙂
Many thanks for Ken and Michael, and all the rest filling in … and most of all to Gordon Price, for his care in establishing this great platform from which to view the world deliberately and with consideration.
(Longread) Nov 2015, Criticism of the Mount Pleasant Library (Longread)
It is not often that a library erupts from an intersection like the prow of an ocean liner cutting through the neighborhood, but when completed in 2010, the Mount Pleasant Library did just that. Immediately it was the tallest building in the neighborhood, and it represented the starting gun for a race to redevelop much of the surrounding neighborhood.
Height is an unusual quality for a Library, as the Dewey decimal system is an inherently horizontal concept. The library’s apparent mass is the result of the nine stories of affordable housing stacked on top, as well as child care, retail, and a community center beside1 — a configuration resulting from the unique desire to place all its civic infrastructure in one basket.
The building, designed by what is now Perkins+Will, is additionally unusual because it was developed by the City of Vancouver itself as a mixed-use structure, combining older, insufficient and inconvenient infrastructure into one centralized location, as well as provide additional affordable rental to address the city’s almost zero-percent rental vacancy, and rapidly increasing rents. The mixed-use aspect is itself not that unusual for a rapidly urbanizing city, what is unusual is that the developer was the City of Vancouver, and Vancouver does not often place itself in the development game — much of the Vancouver’s recent civic infrastructure has been created by leveraging the ‘Community Amenity Contributions’ (CACs) of developers.
Vancouver’s urban infrastructure, such as this library, is dictated by a unique set of influences which directly affect the manner in which Vancouver builds its libraries, and other public amenities.
Infrastructure, being a public amenity, is typically funded through a city’s tax revenues. In Vancouver, CACs are not a tax, but rather are “are in-kind or cash contributions provided by property developers.”2 These contributions take place to facilitate a rezoning application,

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On the subject of designing public spaces, Ian Robertson coincidentally sends in a well-illustrated piece from This Old City on a pragmatic way to find the spaces in cities that could be used for enhanced urbanspace, using a technique called ‘sneckdown’:

If you haven’t heard of a “sneckdown” yet, it’s a clever combination of “snow” and “neckdown” – another name for a curb expansion – that uses snow formations on the street to reveal the space cars don’t use. Advocates can then use these sneckdown photos to make the case to local transportation officials that traffic calming interventions like curb bumpouts and traffic islands can be installed without any loss to car drivers.

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A possible alternative to the pure transit debate: provide transit across the bridges, then use the above services to supplement last mile transit once in Surrey/Delta/etc … rather like OVFiets does in the Netherlands having bikes stationed at each/many train stations to get home on.


From nextcity:

Even as cities continue to grapple with regulating companies like Airbnb, Uber and Lyft, the popularity of such services keeps growing. And when it comes to on-demand ride firms, some transit agencies are choosing to embrace the trend, not fight it.

Story here.

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