Adam Gopnick on Jane Jacobs – 3



Adam Gopnick in the New Yorker does a reflection on Jane Jacobs’s life and ideas in her centenary year, with so many astute observations that PT will pull out a selection and run one every hour today.


A celebration of the unplanned, improvised city of streets and corners, Jacobs’s is a landscape that most urban-planning rhetoric of the time condemned as obsolete and slummy, something to be replaced by large-scale apartment blocks with balconies and inner-courtyard parks. She insisted that such Corbusian super blocks tended to isolate their inhabitants, depriving them of the eyes-on-the-street crowding essential to city safety and city joys.

She told the story of a little girl seemingly being harassed by an older man, and of how all of Hudson Street emerged from stores and stoops to protect her (though she confesses that the man turned out to be the girl’s father). She made the still startling point that, on richer blocks, a whole class of eyes had to be hired to play the role that, on Hudson Street, locals played for nothing: “A network of doormen and superintendents, of delivery boys and nursemaids, a form of hired neighborhood, keeps residential Park Avenue supplied with eyes.”

A hired neighborhood! It’s obvious once it’s said, but no one before had said it, because no one before had seen it.

Adam Gopnick on Jane Jacobs – 2



Adam Gopnick in the New Yorker does a reflection on Jane Jacobs’s life and ideas in her centenary year, with so many astute observations that PT will pull out a selection and run one every hour today.


Though Jacobs was later portrayed as an engaged, block-party mom, Kanigel (in the new bio “Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs”) reveals that she was much too busy writing and working to do much real street living; her shopping was mostly done by phone. It was her more abstract experience of large-scale urban renewal elsewhere, particularly in Philadelphia, under the then much praised Edmund Bacon, that really kindled her growing indignation about what was happening to cities.

A paragraph heading in one of her Fortune pieces summed up her new belief: “The smallness of big cities.” Big cities thrived, she wrote, because they were full of healthy micro-villages; small ones became overdependent on one or two businesses, turning into plantation towns with company stores (as Scranton had been too dependent on coal). She became notorious for attacking Lincoln Center, then under construction. A cynosure of everything forward-looking and ambitious in urban design, it represented to her, almost alone, the apotheosis of the “super blocks” that destroyed the “hurly-burly” of city life. Anti-modernist at a time when few progressives dared to be, she was invited to a symposium on cities at Harvard in 1956, and did a Ruby Keeler, going up to the lectern an unknown and coming back to her seat a star.

Mobi In the Parks


City of Vancouver Parks Board has approved 11 Mobi stations in its parks.  This according to Michael Mui in 24 Hours Vancouver. See other Mobi info below, from the article.


The Park Board designated seven locations in Stanley Park, two at Sunset Beach, one at English Bay and one at Kitsilano Beach, as stations where Mobi users will be able to pick up and drop off bikes, adding to the 72 locations that have already been revealed around the downtown core.

Mobi general manager Mia Kohout . . .  said additional consultation will be done with First Nations for the Stanley Park stations, but after that Mobi will be installing the bike infrastructure within the parks.

Park Board spokeswoman Margo Harper said the board is also asking Mobi to advertise park services, in exchange for using parking lot space.

A few Mobi numbers (as of Sept 21, 2016):

  • 64 stations activated, another 6 installed and ready (eventually 150 total)
  • Around 600 bikes in service (eventually to be 1,500)
  • 2-3 trips per day per bike on average
  • Total of 73,000 trips so far (1,200 to 1,500 per day)
  • Membership is around 5,000

Adam Gopnick on Jane Jacobs – 1



Adam Gopnick, one of the New Yorker’s best writers (his book on Paris is a joyful read), does a reflection on Jane Jacobs’s life and ideas in her centenary year, with so many astute observations that PT will pull out a selection and run one every hour today.



Jane Jacobs’s aura was so powerful that it made her, precisely, the St. Joan of the small scale. Her name still summons an entire city vision—the much watched corner, the mixed-use neighborhood—and her holy tale is all the stronger for including a nemesis of equal stature: Robert Moses, the Sauron of the street corner. …

Her admirers and interpreters tend to be divided into almost polar opposites: leftists who see her as the champion of community against big capital and real-estate development, and free marketeers who see her as the apostle of self-emerging solutions in cities. In a lovely symmetry, her name invokes both political types: the Jacobin radicals, who led the French Revolution, and the Jacobite reactionaries, who fought to restore King James II and the Stuarts to the British throne.

She is what would now be called pro-growth—“stagnant” is the worst term in her vocabulary—and if one had to pick out the two words in English that offended her most they would be “planned economy.” At the same time, she was a cultural liberal, opposed to oligarchy, suspicious of technology, and hostile to both big business and the military. Figuring out if this makes hers a rich, original mixture of ideas or merely a confusion of notions decorated with some lovely, observational details is the challenge that taking Jacobs seriously presents.

Twinning Tweets: Driving out the humans

Two items that landed in the box.  First, from Business in Vancouver:

Report calls for dedicated lanes for self-driving cars between Vancouver, Seattle

A report released Monday (September 19) from a group of Seattle-based tech experts suggests autonomous vehicles are needed to better link their city’s economy to their northern neighbours.

autoThe report is pushing for the creation of dedicated traffic lanes for autonomous vehicles throughout the 225-kilometre stretch of highway between Seattle and Vancouver.

… the report suggests that within 10-15 years, self-driving cars would supplant existing vehicles along the I-5/Highway 99 corridor. Human-driven cars would not be permitted on highways except for times when there is little congestion such as weekends or between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. on weekdays.


From the New York Times:

Here’s a question I’m hoping comes up at Monday’s presidential debate: Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump, what would you do about self-driving trucks?

According to the boosters, autonomous trucks would avert lots of accidents, saving thousands of lives annually. They could reduce congestion and carbon emissions by cutting the number of trucks on the road, as each truck would never have to sleep. In the short-to-midrange future — before they are good enough to dispense with a human driver entirely — they may make the job of driving a truck far more comfortable and enjoyable than it is today. And they could also slash the cost of interstate transit, possibly sparking wider economic prosperity. …

In the long run, if the trucks prove successful and our logistics infrastructure adjusts to accommodate them, they could begin to displace the three million Americans (mostly men) who now drive trucks for a living, not to mention truck stops and the small towns that depend on them. …

How Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton think about autonomous trucks is in some ways a test case for their ideas about technology generally. It might reveal how they would weigh the benefits of innovation — which usually accrue diffusely to the nation at large — against the particular burdens borne by a small group (the truck drivers who might lose their jobs, in this case).


PT: The question could equally apply to our leaders in Canada, where the job-loss estimate, for all kinds of driverless vehicles, tops well over 100,000.

Think about just dumping tens of thousands of low-skilled aging men out of work, with little prospect of retraining for similarly paying jobs, and imagine what the social and political consequences would be.  Actually, Trumpism gives you a pretty good idea.  

There is also the question of wealth inequality and redistribution as transportation services get increasingly concentrated among a handful of ever-more-powerful service providers who control and integrate an many modes as possible – all with the intent of delabouring trucking, transit, taxis, etc.  

This is not a recipe for social stability.  Political leaders would be crazy to unleash these forces without preparing for the consequences.

Ohrn Image — Public Art


Very well-known, the Digital Orca by Douglas Coupland.  Located in Jack Poole Plaza on the waterfront in downtown Vancouver.

It touches on the themes of the harbour, wildlife, and the emergence and rapid growth of a digitally-oriented segment of our economy. Even as the ships, full of rocks and logs, as ever, sail past and head out into the world.


Douglas Coupland:  The Digital Orca sculpture acts as a sculptural conduit that allows the viewer to travel in time between the past and the future, also allowing the viewer to marvel along the way at the people and activities that created Vancouver’s thriving harbour culture. The sculpture also addresses the massive changes currently reshaping the economy of the Province.

Through the act of pixelizing an orca whale in three dimensions – a process that creates a crackling and unexpected sensation in the viewers mind – the orca cliché is turned upside down and what we thought we knew well is rendered exciting and new. On closer inspection, the colours and materials used in the sculpture’s surfacing evoke the everyday life of the harbour and the diversity of those workers on the working waterfronts of the Province.

From Streetfilms: “Vancouver’s Breathtaking Network …”


Vancouver’s Breathtaking Network of Safe, Protected Bike Lanes


In 2012, the Vancouver City Council set an ambitious goal to reach a bicycle mode share of 7 percent of all trips by 2020. The city proceeded to hit the mark in 2015, five years ahead of schedule!

When you ride around Vancouver’s fantastic network of bike lanes, it’s no wonder the city is experiencing a leap in ridership. Most of Vancouver feels safe to ride, and it’s fun to see all sorts of people out on bikes.

A key factor in Vancouver’s success is that the city constantly goes back to re-engineer, tweak, and improve its bike lanes for greater safety. Hornby Street, which features prominently in this Streetfilm, used to just have painted bike lanes. At the time, women accounted for 28 percent of bike trips on the street, according to Vancouver Transportation Manager Dale Bracewell. After the city installed a landscaped protected bike lane on Hornby, bike trips grew rapidly — especially bike trips by women, who now account for 39 percent of the street’s bike traffic.

Compared to New York City, which has made significant strides in the past eight years to carve out street space for protected bike lanes, Vancouver is clearly going the extra mile. In three days of riding, I didn’t see one car parked in a protected bike lane. When you ride downtown, conflicts with drivers are rare.

In New York, we need to take additional steps to shore up protected bike lanes and keep cars out. In many cases, we already have the real estate, w just need bolder designs and with more physical protection.

Arbutus Greenway Consulting Expanded


Lots of interest, it seems, on this one — consultation on the temporary surface to be applied to the Greenway prior to the start of full-blown consultation on the permanent Greenway design later in the year.

City staff have added opportunities on Sept 24.


I strongly prefer that the temporary surface allows all potential Greenway users to get onto the Greenway and try it out, so that the broadest possible range of opinions can be brought forward to the final design. I’m in favour of accessibility for all; and I’m against exclusion in any form.

Come to a public workshop to learn about different temporary pathway options and share your thoughts:

  • Kitsilano. September 17, 1 – 3 pm  (completed)
  • Marpole. September 21, 7 – 9 pm
  • Kerrisdale. September 22, 7 – 9 pm
  • Kitsilano. September 24, 10 am to 12 pm.
  • Kerrisdale. September 24, 3 – 5 pm

Meetings are public but space is limited. For more information and to RVSP, please visit Eventbrite. Each workshop will cover the same materials.

View the information boards PDF file (2.4 MB)

Excerpt from the Information Boards:

Many people think about greenways in the traditional sense of nature trails or pathways through natural areas or along waterfronts.  In Vancouver, they are that and much more.

Transportation greenways are linear public corridors for pedestrians and cyclists that connect parks, nature reserves, cultural features, historic sites, neighbourhoods and retail areas.

The future Arbutus Greenway will encourage people to travel by foot and bike—and ultimately streetcar—and improve access to parks and public green space. In addition to being a transportation corridor, the future greenway will also include features such as lighting, landscaping and seating areas to create a welcoming public space.

Hello Tsawwassen Mills, Good-bye Delta


Another stage in the asphalting of the Fraser Delta continues apace:


From Business in Vancouver:

The region’s largest new mall project in years, the 1.2 million-square-foot Tsawwassen Mills at the corner of Highway 17 and 52nd Street in Delta, is slated to open on October 5 and provide jobs for thousands of people. …

The 550,000-square-foot Tsawwassen Commons Shopping Centre, adjacent to Tsawwassen Mills, is expected to have a phased opening this fall, although it is unclear how many of its tenants will be open by the holiday season. …

“Metro Vancouver is nowhere near served by as much retail space on a per-capita basis as there is a capacity for,” said James Smerdon, who is a Colliers International vice-president and director of its retail consulting.

“There will be a spike in per-capita retail space when Tsawwassen Mills opens, but we have 50,000 people moving here each year.”


Sandy James, one of PT’s co-editors, will be doing a lot of coverage of what the Mall means in context – a tough subject to tackle given the involvement of the Tsawwassen First Nation.  But more importantly what is the larger intent of the Province, which is directing billions of dollars in the construction of infrastructure that, not coincidentally, serves to feed this far corner of the region on its most sensitive, below-sea-level soils.

Another important question: Will the mall survive?  The retail consultants, of course, think it will.  If it does, what does that mean for the ALR and urban development South of the Fraser.  If not, what happens then?

What other issues should be addressed?

The Transit Pulse of London’s Tube


This article in Forbes Magazine describes the creation of a data visualization called Tube Heartbeat. Produced by Oliver O’Brien it shows the movement of London England’s transit passengers as they move around the 268 tube stations on 11 lines. The images are updated in fifteen minute intervals, showing how up to 4.8 million passengers a day use the system.

We already use analogies like arterials for the road network-the pulsing of the volume of passengers using the London tube  network  looks very organic, confirming that public transportation is indeed the heart of a city.

Those Unsafe Suburban Curving Streets


The Business Insider has a compelling article about the street grid. For millennia we designed and developed the street grid as the most functional way to develop a place.

Emily Badger with City Lab confirms what we always suspected. While going to the suburbs for a “safer” life,  people have actually been going to suburban communities composed of curving street plans that “ make us drive more, make us less safe, keep us disconnected from one another, and that may even make us less healthy”.

A key part of the  20th century Garden City movement and the development of the Radburn Plan for suburbs in North America was discarding the grid pattern and going for organic, round street shapes.  Norman Garrick and Wesley Marshall started researching street network designs  commencing with bikeable Davis California. Even though Davis has more than 16 per cent of the population biking to work, it also has the lowest traffic fatality rates in the USA. By looking at the data of over a  quarter of a million crashes in 24 California cities over 11 years, these researchers discovered that “the safest cities had an element in common: They were all incorporated before 1930″.  And they all had the grid pattern.


A lot of people feel that they want to live in a cul-de-sac, they feel like it’s a safer place to be,” Marshall says. “The reality is yes, you’re safer – if you never leave your cul-de-sac. But if you actually move around town like a normal person, your town as a whole is much more dangerous.”

The researchers also found out that people who live in curvilinear suburbs versus grid pattern suburb spend 18 per cent more time driving  and have less contact with local shops and services. Grid cities have better connections for walking and biking, and with less car crashes, are safer.

Cul-de-sac roughly means bottom of the sack in French.Time to reorder and get back to the grid.

Ohrn Image — Public Art


Located in Seaforth Peace Park, across from the Armoury, south of the Burrard-Cornwall intersection, a very traditional sculpture honouring a Vancouver citizen.


The attribution reads:

Kinuko Laskey

Kinuko Laskey was a sixteen year old nurse who survived the bombing of Hiroshima. She moved to Vancouver in 1954 and for many years was unable to speak of her experience. In 1982 she broke her silence and began what became a lifelong work as a peace educator and activist. This bust honours Kinuko’s life and her work

Sponsor:  Vancouver and District Labour Council is proud to dedicate this monument to Kinuko Laskey’s memory.

Sculptor:  Keith Shields

More HERE and HERE.

Hints About Jericho — or Not



Interested in the “other parcel”, the 21-acre Heather Street Lands?  Mark your calendar.

You can attend a Welcome Event (the launch of the planning process) on Saturday, September 24, 2016 . Noon to 3 pm, 4949 Heather Street, at the Heather Street Lands.

In the same flurry of transactions in October 2014 that released the Jericho Lands from DND use and positioned it for development, the former RCMP HQ at 37th and Heather in Vancouver went to the same groups.

Canada Lands Company and the MST Partnership have come together in a joint venture as the owners of the Heather Street Lands. The MST Partnership comprises the Musqueam Indian Band, Squamish Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation.

These lands comprise 21 acres, located in a very ripe area, smack in the middle of low-density old-time car suburbs. Note the intense densification taking place along Cambie Street in this area as a hint of a possible future here.