Trump: “Make my name much bigger”

From The New Yorker:

The idea of Trump writing an autobiography didn’t originate with either Trump or Schwartz. It began with Si Newhouse, the media magnate (of) Advance Publications …

Newhouse called Trump about the project, then visited him to discuss it. Random House continued the pursuit with a series of meetings. At one point, Howard Kaminsky, who ran Random House then, wrapped a thick Russian novel in a dummy cover that featured a photograph of Trump looking like a conquering hero; at the top was Trump’s name, in large gold block lettering. Kaminsky recalls that Trump was pleased by the mockup, but had one suggestion: “Please make my name much bigger.”

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Tech and Transportation: The future is already here

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Two tech items from the New York Times:

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Big City is watching you.

It will do it with camera-equipped drones that inspect municipal power lines and robotic cars that know where people go. Sensor-laden streetlights will change brightness based on danger levels. Technologists and urban planners are working on a major transformation of urban landscapes over the next few decades.Much of it involves the close monitoring of things and people, thanks to digital technology. To the extent that this makes people’s lives easier, the planners say, they will probably like it. But troubling and knotty questions of privacy and control remain. …

One of the biggest changes that will hit a digitally aware city, it is widely agreed, is the seemingly prosaic issue of parking. Space given to parking is expected to shrink by half or more, as self-driving cars and drone deliveries lead an overall shift in connected urban transport. That will change or eliminate acres of urban space occupied by raised and underground parking structures.

Shared vehicles are not parked as much, and with more automation, they will know where parking spaces are available, eliminating the need to drive in search of a space.

“Office complexes won’t need parking lots with twice the footprint of their buildings,” said Sebastian Thrun, who led Google’s self-driving car project in its early days and now runs Udacity, an online learning company. “When we started on self-driving cars, we talked all the time about cutting the number of cars in a city by a factor of three,” or a two-thirds reduction.  …

One reason for confidence in a radically changed future is that much of it is already here. The city’s Uber and Lyft, the Boston-based auto-sharing company Zipcar and things like corporate shuttle buses have shown new ways for urban dwellers to use vehicles. …

One danger of the new city may be the age-old faith that technology makes things better, and more tech is best.

“The danger of big dramatic projects is that they become the equivalent of urban renewal or the kind of sweeping things Robert Moses did for cars in New York that created dysfunction,” said Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster. “The best thing tech could do now is rescue us from the car-centric cities we built after 1930.” 

Full story here.

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As cities grow and concerns about pollution and congestion rise, commuters in urban areas are increasingly turning to apps to compare and combine public and private transportation alternatives. “The shared modes complement public transit, enhancing urban mobility,” said Darnell Grisby, director of policy development and research at the American Public Transportation Association, a trade group based in Washington. …

In March, the American Public Transportation Association released a study that found that shared transit modes were likely to continue to grow. And the more people used them, the more likely they were to also use mass transit. …

Nationwide, mass transit use stalled during the last decade. According to the Census Bureau, 76.5 percent of commuters drove alone, 9.2 percent car-pooled and 5.2 percent used mass transit in 2014, the latest year for which figures were available. In 2005, 77 percent drove alone, 10.7 percent car-pooled and 4.7 percent used public transportation.

Apps hold the promise of altering those percentages by showing passengers how to travel from home to a transit stop and then to their ultimate destination, the so-called first mile-last mile of a commute. …

… the Department of Transportation pledged up to $40 million to one city to help define what it means to be a “smart city,” with innovative technologies including self-driving cars, connected vehicles and smart sensors incorporated into a transportation network. The department chose Columbus, Ohio, from the 78 cities that applied. Columbus will receive an additional $10 million for electric vehicles and to reduce carbon emissions from Vulcan Inc., a company started in Seattle by the philanthropist Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft.

In other cities, private enterprise is joining forces with transit districts. In March, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority introduced a one-year, $1.3 million pilot program in conjunction with Bridj, a van ride-hailing service. …

Moovit, a navigation app in a thousand cities worldwide, uses crowdsourced data from customer phones to map the fastest route, estimating how long the trip will take and whether mass transit is running on time.

Experts expect these experiments to continue.

“There’s an insatiable demand,” said Robert J. Puentes, president and chief executive of Eno Center for Transportation, a think tank in Washington.

Full story here.

Requited Love Affair – Seattle and Light Rail

From columnist Danny Westneat in the Seattle Times:

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Nine years ago, I wrote a column predicting, unambiguously, “Light rail: We will love it.” …

Reality turned out to be more complicated. Seattle not only didn’t love light rail. At first we barely noticed it.

We finally opened a rail line seven years ago, in 2009 — after debating it off and on for half a century. But six months in, the 14-mile line, built for $2.3 billion and years late, was carrying only about 14,000 riders a day.  There are bus routes with that many passengers. …  The financials weren’t so hot, either, as fares covered only about 25 percent of the operating cost (the conservative goal had been 40 percent).

Light rail wasn’t a dud. But it hadn’t become a central feature in the city.

It sure feels like that has all suddenly changed. …

On Monday, Sound Transit announced that light-rail ridership has just surged 83 percent. That’s not a typo. The use of rail nearly doubled, from about 36,000 per day last May to more than 65,000 per day this May.

The obvious cause is that 20 years after the voters approved it, the agency finally built two stations where people really want to go — Capitol Hill and UW.

Suddenly we have vaulted into the top 10 in the country in light-rail ridership. …  Plus: In May the trains earned 51 percent of their operating costs back in fares, a doubling of the rate from last year. That’s a major rider endorsement of the system.

What is going on?

The transportation planning answer is that Capitol Hill and UW were considered the two most desirable mass-transit markets in the nation that weren’t already served by subway or rail. So putting train stops there was a no-brainer. (This makes it even more of a head-banger that it took us so long to do it!) …

A tipping point has been reached, it seems to me. The train is no longer an academic urbanist talking point, or something like broccoli that we know is supposed to be good for us. The recalcitrant city now is embracing rail with a zeal that seems to have startled even Sound Transit.

It took damn near 50 years of arguing about it. But we finally love it.

Item from Ian: The Elephant Race

Ian takes a quote from Sandy Garossino’s critique on real estate and race in the National Observer:

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Little could be more symptomatic of Vancouver’s real estate derangement syndrome than journalist Ian Young’s report that the Canada Revenue Agency is nervous about being labeled racist over tax fraud investigations in Vancouver. Even our tax auditors are twitchy about checking on home buyers in Shaughnessy who claim tax credits for the working poor.

 

Gord Price: The leadership of this city, province and country has been exceedingly reluctant to address the interconnected dilemma of real estate, housing affordability, foreign capital and race – because initially they saw the problem as isolated to the affluent neighbourhoods of Vancouver, because they didn’t want to be seen to cause a crash in values, because they had justifiable fear of exacerbating racial animosity just under the surface and mainly because they really didn’t know what to do.

But they ran out the clock.  The problem is just too big to ignore – and others (ironically many Chinese-Canadians) were providing too much documentation and data that couldn’t be ignored.   Now there is a limited time left before the issue is fully politicized (likely the provincial election in May) – and they must have some response sufficient to convince a cynical and angry electorate that they are taking action that will make a difference.

Even if they’re not and it doesn’t.

Jim Deva Plaza Opening July 28

Here’s a date to put in your calendar, as a new people-friendly place officially opens.  Just in time for Pride events such as the Davie Street Gay Block Party on July 29, and the Festival and Parade on the 31st. The plaza is at Davie and Bute in the West End.

It’s a part of the West End Community Plan. And it’s a terrific addition to an already richly interesting neighbourhood.

The plaza is named in honour of long-time LGBTQ activist Jim Deva.

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Recent Arrivals: Darren Davis and Michael Mortensen

Darren Davis is now online and Michael Mortensen is back in Vancouver.

Darren is the Principal Public Transport Planner at Auckland Transport in New Zealand (and an instructor and facilitator for the SFU City Program’s Next Generation Transportation).  He’s also now blogging at Adventures in Transitland. 

Here’s a recent post that illustrates the advantage of communication among us Commonwealth cousins.

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As is not unusual in Canada, with the laudable exception of Metro Vancouver, transit system redesigns and adjustments are either not done, not done in a systematic way, or are done and then rolled out over a very long timeframe.

Auckland is being increasingly recognised internationally for the speed at which we are working to transform our public transport system and cycleway network and there are useful lessons to be had for other cities and regions grappling with big issues around making public transit work better in an environment of scarce public funds.

 

And in other goods news, it’s a pleasure to announce that Michael Mortensen is arriving back in Canada today after a few years in London

Michael has posted on Price Tags periodically – and here’s his updated home page:

Michael

He’s setting up his own planning consulting firm:

 

Friday Funny: the West End In 1966

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In a fossilized yet timeless look , CBC Vancouver produced this for their show “Camera West”.  Apparently much of the footage was taken lazily by a camera stuck out the window of a moving car, and far too much screen time is spent leering at women.  Very 1966.

But most fossilized of all is the repeated assertion in the sententious voice-over that the West End was home to “. . . the new mid-century hybrid — the swinger”.  My guess is that the writer may have been influenced by a trashy movie called “the Swinger“, released in 1966, in which an author writes a steamy sex novel, and then acts out its fantasies (orgies of voluptuous carnality). If not, then perhaps a related definition of this thoroughly obsolete term is enough.

And yes, there are bicycles.

See the 9:33 length video excerpt HERE.

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Those Were The Days

For those who didn’t catch The Toronto Star’s piece on Don Mills, it’s an interesting and refreshingly neutral take on why suburbia was so popular in the first place. It is common these days to associate this type of suburban development with social and economic isolation as well as crippling dependence on the automobile. But once upon a time, some very intelligent people would not have disagreed more.

Even if some of our contemporary criticism is undeniably true, it’s useful to remind ourselves that we are products of our times; and that our decisions and judgements are not divorced from the contexts in which we make them. These developments were originally sold on and commonly perceived as the embodiment of personal and economic freedom. We couldn’t possibly be this wrong again, right?

Today we’re supposedly more enlightened. But considering the absolute, unquestioning enthusiasm with which city planners once promoted suburbia is an opportunity to ask ourselves if the trends we currently hold to will stand up to future scrutiny.

Whether it’s protected cycle lanes, automated vehicles, underground parks, or bioswales, what will we look back on forty years from now and ask, “Just what in the Hotel-Echo-Lima-Lima were we thinking?”

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The Donway, facing West, circa 1960

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And Today

Ohrn Image — Building With Heart and Colour

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Located at 1099 Richards Street, the New Jubilee House will provide 162 units of affordable housing (compared to 87 units in its previous location), with larger amenity spaces and improved access for those with limited mobility.

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New Jubilee House, Richards & Helmcken

The building was built and operates under care of the 127 Society:

Today the Society houses 259 people in three apartment buildings. The Society partnered with the City of Vancouver and CMHC on its first building, Jubilee House, which opened in 1986 and will close in 2016; with BC Housing and CMHC on retrofitting heritage apartment building Brookland Court, which opened in 1989; with BC Housing and the City of Vancouver on The Wellspring, which opened in 1997; and with the City of Vancouver, Brenhill Developments, and BC Housing on New Jubilee House which opens in 2016 to replace the original Jubilee House.

Doin’ the Mobi

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Here’s occasional PT contributor Chris Keam with impressions of his first date with a Mobi.

Bottom line. If you have to be downtown and move around the core, this is a convenient and cheap way to get around. Essentially 30 cents a day for a year for unlimited trips within the time limit of the package you choose. If you think you’re going to use it, the early-bird deal is a good one. I would recommend snapping it up before it ends (July 31).

He likes it, and so do I.  Mobi is just fun and easy to use.

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Cardero and Davie — look for one in your neighbourhood

Ohrn Image — Public Art

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Granville St. and 13th Avenue.

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Artist:  Ola Volo (Click for larger image)

Ola Volo (BFA, Emily Carr University) is a Canadian illustrator from Kazakhstan with a distinctive style drawn from history, multiculturalism and folklore. Her intricate works bring animals, people, architecture and nature together to articulate diverse stories rich with symbolism and elaborate forms.

Evidence: The Third Stage of Cycling Infrastructure

So much new cycling and public space infrastructure is happening at the moment, from new bike lanes to bikeshare, that it’s hard to believe it’s occurring without much controversy.   We seem to have reached a new stage in our cycling evolution.

Looking back, it appears the first stage was, with the appointment of a Bicycle Advisory Committee in the 1970s, the creation of a cycling vision and plan. A small cohort of committed individuals within small organizations lobbied consistently and maintained pressure to get change on the ground.  Once ongoing capital commitments were approved, the Engineering department responded.

From that we got the network of bikeways – extremely cost-effective, requiring few trade-offs with other road users.

But the second stage led to controversy: the commitment to a network, primarily downtown, of separated bike routes.  See Dunsmuir and Hornby.  See Burrard Bridge.  See Point Grey Road.

Each was the focus of inflamed media attention, each had to be fought separately.  All required political commitment, all were won.

And now the third stage: the build-out of a minimum grid, a complete network of separated routes, a bikeshare system, a triple-A culture (all ages and abilities), a steadily increasing modal share for cycling, an integration with greenways and public spaces.  It’s happening without a lot of controversy, based on recognition that what we have done is working and what we can do will make the city  better and our citizens healthier.

In the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of evidence of that third stage.  For one instance, at the north end of the Burrard Bridge.

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Send in the evidence as it happens.

Item from Ian: The Demography of Democracy in Seattle

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Ian: As Vancouver neighbourhoods clamour for more local representation and authority and control, Seattle went the other way.

From Crosscut:

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Mayor Ed Murray dissolved all formal ties between the city and the 13 neighborhood District Councils last Wednesday, upending a system three decades old. Since then, reaction has ranged from surprise and anger from the district councilmembers, to praise from the system’s critics, who argue it isn’t representative of Seattle’s modern demographics. …

In announcing his executive order, Murray pointed to a 2013 report on District Council demographics, noting that attendees of these councils were largely middle-aged white homeowners. Less than half reported having any people of color in their ranks.

“Our city has changed dramatically in the three decades since the district councils were created,” Murray said. “We have to find out how we reach people who can’t go at 7pm to a neighborhood meeting in a community center or church basement … immigrants and refugees, low income residents, communities of color, renters, youth, they’re not part of this process.”

The decision means the Department of Neighborhoods will no longer dedicate staff time and resources to supporting the District Councils. It also directs the department to begin creating a new outreach and engagement framework that emphasizes equity and inclusion of a wide range of Seattleites, something Murray says the District Council system does not do. …

Full story here.

Right-wing Mash-up: Bike lanes, Bikeshare and the Price of Parking

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Just to add a sour note to an otherwise sunny day with the soft launch of Mobi, here’s a tired, snarky column by a National Post columnist.  Though published a few days ago, it seems like it comes from the last decade.  ‘War on the Car’?  So Rob Ford.  

But what is new (and startling) is the disconnect between the free-market ideology of the NatPost and the antipathy to using the price mechanism to allocate a scarce resource like street parking in the West End, encouraging the use of surplus private parking otherwise noncompetitive.

 

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VANCOUVER — A war is being waged in Vancouver’s streets. Led by green-by-all-means mayor Gregor Robertson, City Hall has identified and vilified its enemy, the car. The private automobile. …

Some of the city’s new traffic-clogging, business-blocking lanes are seldom used, but that’s of little concern to two-wheeler preachers and sanctimonious scolders who aren’t dependent on cars for their livelihoods. More dedicated bike lanes are on the way.

Planning a move to Vancouver’s West End, a densely populated, mostly working-class neighbourhood wedged between the downtown core and beloved Stanley Park? Better think twice about bringing a car. City Hall would much prefer you leave the thing behind. You’re better to sell it. Sell it now.

A staff report delivered to city council this month recommends that any newcomer seeking a city parking permit in the West End be slapped with a 700 per cent fee increase. Current permit fees for existing residents are far too low, at $80 a year, explain city planners. Better to charge incoming residents at a “market rate,” which the city has determined to be $50 a month, or a punishing $600 a year.

The proposed permit fee increase would not apply to other neighbourhoods.

According to Vancouver transportation director Lon LaClaire, there are 16,000 registered vehicles in the West End, about one for every three residents, and more than enough parking spaces to accommodate them all: 22,000 off-street (mostly underground) private parking spaces and 2,700 on-street permit spaces.

A 700 per cent fee increase for a city street parking permit would force car owners to consider either giving up their vehicles, or renting an unused private space from, say, a neighbouring building. LaClaire says there are thousands of empty parking spaces sitting underground.

Would the owners of those private parking spaces be persuaded to rent out their spaces to strangers? Who knows.

What is certain, says LaClaire, is that the proposed fee increase would discourage locals from parking their vehicles on the street. It would be a costly inconvenience for them, but a possible boon for West End visitors, who typically spend about 10 minutes circling the block, looking for a place to park.

Continue reading

Good News from South False Creek

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An important step for what is really one of Vancouver’s heritage neighbourhoods: South False Creek (between Granville Island and the Cambie Bridge) – a master-planned community by the City, incorporating many of the radical ideas in urban design and social policy originating in the early 1970s, and largely achieved.

From the neighbourhood newsletter via ‘Items from Ian.’

*RePlan Wins Unanimous Support from Vancouver City Council

False Creek South (FCS) residents achieved a notable success on July 13th. At *RePlan’s first public meeting with Vancouver City Council, Councillors voted unanimously on a five-point motion proposed by Councillor Reimer, which we believe will lay the foundation for lease renewal, with affordable options to enable all leasehold residents to stay in the community if they choose.

Read More..

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*RePlan sponsors course on Community Land Trusts (CLTs) on September 9 and a free lecture on September 8

 

To find out whether CLTs are the vehicle to retain much needed affordable housing and finance future sustainable and locally guided development on publicly-owned land, such as False Creek South, *RePlan organizes a public lecture on September 8 and a full-day professional development course on September 9, 2016.

Read More… or directly register with SFU for the course or lecture.

 

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