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How things get done (or not) in YVR and NYC

April 16, 2014

Michael Alexander reports:

For those who complain that Vancouver doesn’t take care of business, and imagine that other cities must be doing better:

Last week I emailed the city, noting that it has been months since Pacific Boulevard had been repaved, but that the crosswalk stripes hadn’t been added (and that the temporary dashed lines that demarcate where the stripes go were so old that they were fading).

The next day, I got an emailed response, thanking me for the information.

Six days later, here are the new stripes at the busy intersection of Pacific and Davie, complete with separate stop lines for each car lane.

pACIFIC bLVD

 

On the other hand, here is my wife’s experience trying to let New York officials know that someone had planted a credit card reader on one of their transit ticketing machines, to surreptitiously steal credit card information. (U.S. credit cards don’t have chips like ours do, so all your personal information is coded on an easily-read magnetic stripe on the back.)

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How I Wasted Three Hours Trying to Alert ANYONE To Credit Card Skimming at New York’s Howard Beach Station

 

So I spent last week in NYC and yesterday my credit card company phoned about a possible fraudulent charge. …. After reading an item about credit card theft from an MTA ticket machine at Columbus Circle, I’m quite certain that my credit card was skimmed at the Howard Beach station where I bought a $6 ticket for the AirTrain to JFK.

Now I’m home in Vancouver, Canada, and have spent a frustrating three hours trying to alert anyone at the MTA or in city government to this fraud, with no success.

I started with the obvious: MTA. After working my way through their phone tree a couple of times (various unexpected disconnects), I eventually reached someone in the corporate office who had no idea what to do or who I should call.

On to New York’s finest, who put me on hold, then disconnected me. After another busy signal, I reached a woman who said I should come in and file a report.  Uh, I’m in Vancouver, Canada now.  Oh, she responded brightly, you should send us a statement in the mail.  So, I said, the fact that there may be an active credit card skimming device at the Howard Beach station doesn’t warrant any action speedier than a mailed letter from Canada?  “Hold on, I’ll run this by my supervisor.” Buzz, disconnect.

Time to elevate. I called the mayor’s office, leaving a message at Hiz Honor’s citizen complaint number. Now, time to escalate. I called the City Hall Press Office, prepared to threaten to call the press if I couldn’t get action from the city. “This line is only for reporters,” she said. “This is a story,” I said. She hung up.

I’m starting to take these hangups personally. Do I sound like a crazy lady?

So, like the camera-and-magnetic-stripe-reader at Columbus Circle, a credit card skimming contraption may well be attached to an AirTrain ticket machine at Howard Beach Station. If so, credit card information is being stolen from people going to and from JFK. And there’s no way to alert anyone in authority to the criminal activity.

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Well, that’s enough to drive you into despair over NYC.  So why do we keep going back?  Why do we love it?

Here’s why.

 

Florida and Toderian on stage in Medellin

April 16, 2014

A first time for those words in one sentence.

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Urban Talk with Richard Florida and Brent Toderian at the World Urban Forum 7:
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Worth watching for the content, of course – but also to see how two of the fastest-talking urbanists in the world manage to get their words in edgewise.
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Here, too, is Brent’s Planetizen piece on “why global cities should be paying attention to what’s been happening in Medellin, and what will no doubt evolve even faster after the city successfully hosting the largest and “best” WUF in history.”
Medellin is smartly seeking to build on that reputation as a city of innovation, both in general in its strategies and projects, and specifically in the creation of a new “innovation district” next to the central area.
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MedellinAlthough their new land use plan and mobility plans started separately, they’re more recently embracing the idea of integrating the two into a more holistic approach to city-making, inspired by the Vancouver model and message that “the best transportation plan is a great land use plan.”
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Also like Vancouver, they aren’t just seeking to balance ways of getting around – rather, they’re proposing to prioritize walking, biking and public transit based on the recognition that multi-modal cities work better for everyone, including drivers. It’s a key moment in the city for this change in direction, as only 14% of the population own private vehicles, but this number has been increasing, fuelled by an increasingly out-dated notion elsewhere that car ownership equals status.
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Much of my work with the city is about rethinking the nature of traffic, as an issue of space, cost, livability and sustainability, and even as a form of “violence.”

What street furniture tells you about a city

April 16, 2014

For one, how approachable it is:

SF 1

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The bar, tables and mobile chairs on the Comox Greenway make for an outdoor dining room and people-watching perch.  How can you not stop for a chat?

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Secondly, how generous and trusting it is:

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These telescopes (yes, they’re free) have been mounted at Jericho Park as part of the newly redesigned foreshore where the war-time deck was removed.  What a nice gesture.  And while no doubt they’re sturdily built, the Park Board must assume they won’t be vandalized.

I hope it’s right.

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Thirdly, how rich a place it is and how it chooses to spend its money.

A rich city can afford to do this kind of thing.  But only if its taxpaying citizens value the public realm and are prepared to pay for the common good will it actually do it.

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And then there’s its choice of art – how, in this case, it mixes sculpture and furniture.

Biennale

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Michael Alexander was at Spanish Banks over the weekend:

Vancouver Biennale head Barrie Mowatt (pink shirt) and Brazilian sculptor Hugo França in front of two of the five art works França carved from driftwood brought from Squamish, as part of the Vancouver Biennale 2014-16 outdoor public art exhibit.

The exhibit will continue with many more public works by international artists, including China’s Wei Wei.

Annals of Walking – 24: Welsh walking act … most walkable cities … 10,000 steps

April 16, 2014

A pedestrian perspective.

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THE WELSH ‘ACTIVE TRAVEL’ ACT

They’ve passed this:

An Act of the National Assembly for Wales

  • to make provision for the mapping of active travel routes and related facilities and for and in connection with integrated network maps;
  • for securing that there are new and improved active travel routes and related facilities;
  • for requiring the Welsh Ministers and local authorities to take reasonable steps to enhance the provision made for,
  • and to have regard to the needs of, walkers and cyclists; for requiring functions under the Act to be exercised so as to promote active travel journeys and secure

More here.

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MOST WALKABLE (American) CITIES LIST
Here’s HuffPost’s Most Walkable Cities list, based on the number of commuters who walk to work.  Between the first, Cambridge, and the third, Berkeley, can you guess the second?
It’s this:
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Walkable
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No help?  The answer is here.

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TEN THOUSAND STEPS

How one number became sacred in fitness circles.

Why 10,000 steps? Was it the result of multi-year fitness studies involving warehouses filled with treadmills? Not precisely. It was actually concocted as part of a marketing slogan in Japan. A watchmaker named Yamasa Tokei originally trotted out the 10,000 steps thing in 1965. He made and sold a pedometer he called Manpo-Kei, which when repeated out loud mimics the rhythm of a walk. In Japanese this translates into “10,000 step meter.” Ads for Tokei’s device said, “Let’s walk 10,000 steps a day!”

More here.

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What’s Happening at Centre A

April 16, 2014

The Vancouver International Centre for Asian Art:

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pacific-for-web-copy

Game of Couplets, a participatory poetry game by Lydia Kwa
Daily with a special event on May 31 at 3pm

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Saturday School 10am-12pm, Saturdays, from April 26 – June 7 (PDF)

Curated by Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon,
with language instruction by Zoe Lam.

Learn Chinatown survival Cantonese and get oriented to the neighbourhood! The streets, shops and spaces of Chinatown will be our classroom and its people will be our textbooks. Classes will include: basic Cantonese greetings, numbers, getting around, how to order food in a restaurant and grocery shopping. We will do short field trips around the neighbourhood and hear stories about Chinatown history, community organizing, and historic and current relationships with the diverse cultural communities who share the space. Our final exam will be a grocery shopping expedition and collaboratively created meal.

7 classes: $40 for members, $60 for non-members, $9 drop-in.

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Youth Community Film Screening (PDF)
Curated by Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon
May 10 at 3pm
Free admission

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Poetry Reading by Lydia Kwa and Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon
May 17 at 3pm
Free admission

Ah, Spring

April 16, 2014

Even better: blossoms and bikes.

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These, I believe, are plum blossoms.  But what is the name for that moment when they are just about to burst into full flower?  There must be a name for that.

Vancouver Diary Via Brooklyn

April 15, 2014

Dianna in New York:

An elegantly dressed, 60ish woman to a middle-aged male Hispanic clerk, both very matter-of-fact while he rings up her purchases.

 

Clerk: I haven’t seen you around for a while.

Lady: I just returned from San Francisco.

Clerk: Nice. Business or pleasure?

Lady: Oh, pleasure, much pleasure. I went to visit my son and his husband. They have a new baby!

 

Then followed five minutes as the two compared the delights of being a grandparent, the challenge of selecting exactly the right name, and all those sleepless nights the new parents will face. 

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