Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Life in the Lane

Yesterday, I had the honour of attending the Ryerson University School of Urban & Regional Planning awards ceremony and accepting the IBI Group Award on behalf of myself, Danny Bridson, Joanna Craig, Heather Finlay, Virpal Kataure, Alex Leung, Chris Pereira, Adam Szaflarski and Jesse Watson. This honour is awarded to group projects for excellence in the professional practice, and the Life in the Lane project we completed in December of 2009 was the lucky project.
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Thoughts on a city

A city is not something that can be voted against. It cannot be downsized, streamlined or economized. A city is an idea that lives in our hearts. Though paint may not be spread nor foundations be dug nor trees be planted, the spirit of Toronto cannot and shall not be extinguished.

I choose to remain, for I must. I shall not abandon my post in her hour of need. Though we fear that our doom is upon us, let us rally around the words of John Paul Jones: "I have not yet begun to fight!"


Thoughts on the intertubes

When I first started blogging, a lot of the ideas that I proposed were influenced by what I read on sites like Urban Toronto and the Canadian Public Transportation Discussion Board. I don't know if the quality of discussion has changed or if I have changed, but I feel that those venues (and others like the official Facebook and Twitter pages for the transit establishments and newspaper article comments) have become filled with comments about how every endeavour to improve transit is an epic failure, a pork barrel project, or a general waste of time and money. Generally speaking, it's quite rare that a viable alternative emerges from this discourse.

As a planner in the digital economy, I'm left wondering what the effects on public consultation will be as it moves online onto these venues where unwavering opposition can drown out other opinions. If my perception of the quality of discourse is accurate, I fear that agencies will become less responsive to the public demands. We must create solutions to the problems we face as a society, but in the absense of constructive criticism, it is likely that the solution will not be implemented at all, or it will be implemented as proposed without changes. The result is no one being happy and everyone being mad at the planning process.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Thoughts on ye olde iron plateway

The mayor of Stratford is calling on GO Transit to bring the proposed service extension to Kitchener to his city to support tourism (particularly to the Stratford Festival), provide alternatives to a potential highway expansion, and to deal with opposition associated with the extension. The preferred alternative for the Kitchener extension is to build a layover yard between the hamlets of Baden and New Hamburg in Wilmot Township, just west of Kitchener. While the area residents do not want the yard, politicians in Stratford are willing to accept the yard provided it come with a station.
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Saturday, October 16, 2010

City Loses Heart Lake Appeal - Brampton Guardian

The proposed development at the corner of Sandalwood and Conestoga in the Heart Lake neighbourhood of Brampton is something that I've blogged about for a very, very long time.  I won't rehash my reasons for supporting the development, but I will provide a recap of the story thus far:

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Thoughts on Google Transit

As you may have heard, the TTC has joined York Region Transit, GO Transit, Hamilton Street Railway, Burlington Transit, Brampton Transit (it's a secret!), Grand River Transit and Guelph Transit by sharing its data with Google (Guelph Transit is currently offline because the city is one giant construction zone right now).  If you want to plan a trip using transit in areas served by these services, just use the same Google Maps interface you would use to plan other trips, but be sure to select the transit option.

I've been a long-time fan of Google Transit (much to the chagrin of a certain someone who, despite leaving negative comments and not responding to rebuttal, is still a cool person), but the benefit of this system over the in-house travel planners that many agencies have developed is two-fold. Google Maps is available to most mobile device users allowing you to plan trips while on the move, whereas the in-house planners often use web code not supported by all mobile browsers. Secondly, Google's trips plans span multiple agencies, so a trip between two random points within the coverage area is just as easy to plan as a trip between two other random points within the coverage area.

Now, Google has a few limitations which users should keep in mind before using.
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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Thoughs on cycling infrastructure

From my perspective, cycling downtown is relatively safe as motorists have come to expect bicycles and are (mostly) looking out for them. In the suburban areas of Toronto and in all of the 905, it's a very different story. When riding in mixed traffic, a bicyclist has the choice of riding on the side of the road and running the risk of a driver squeezing them into the curb, or taking the lane (as is their legal right) and running the risk of road rage by drivers who don't know what the Highway Traffic Act actually says. As such, bike lanes are safer than no bike lanes - there's no question about that. With a bike lane, everyone receives their own dedicated space; motorists are not impeded by slower traffic, and the safety of bicyclists is improved by removing them from faster and heavier traffic. Turning movements continue to be problematic, but overall, safety is improved. For the record, the proper procedure according to a CAN-BIKE instructor, is for the right turning car to treat the bike lane as a turn lane and temporarily block it entirely. This prevents a "right hook" collision, as the bicyclist cannot pass between the car and the curb. The bicyclist should go left around the turning car, as long as it is safe to do so.

While bike lanes are great, there are two problems associated with them:
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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Thoughts on reasonable expectations

Earlier today, the administrator of GO Transit's Facebook page put up a link to advertise their airport services ahead of the long weekend. The comments on the link, however, pointed out that there is no direct bus from Halton or Hamilton to the airport. Apparently, this is an epic fail, according to the commenters. But, is it reasonable to expect that there will be a direct service from any random location in the region to Pearson Airport? From my perspective, in a world with limited budgets and competing priorities, no.

If you want to travel between locations in Halton or Hamilton and Pearson Airport, you're going to have to transfer from the 407 service onto the Brampton Local at Bramalea GO Station. If you're travelling on the weekends, your best bet might be take the train to Long Branch and then take the TTC to the airport via Kipling Station. Yeah, transfers suck, but there is no way that any transit agency can provide a direct service to cover every conceivable trip. At the end of the day, we have to have a reasonable expectation about what sort of service public transit can provide. It may be able to replace 99% of the trips that the average person takes, but is it truly an epic failure if 1% of the trips aren't as smooth?

People love to use the internet to complain. Haters gonna hate and trolls gonna troll. But, wouldn't it be awesome if those same people stood up and said that they would support the revenue tools necessary to fix the problems we have?

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