One of the best TransitCamp sessions was the wide-ranging Suggestions for Transit discussion. That link has a huge number of great suggestions. Here are my picks for getting the most bang for the buck:
Give Skytrain Stations Character Each station should have a unique character. Murals and artwork should cover all the walls where people wait and pass by. Each station should look different, visually appealing, and represent the style of the area around it. Granville & Burrard stations are indistinguishable currently.
Vancouver has an existing mural program that Translink should take advantage of for this. Skytrain stations right now are boring; there is room for drastic improvement here.
Give Skytrain Stations Activity Skytrain platforms are high traffic areas, but there aren't any services there. Translink needs to build little villages in these areas. Coffee shops, magazines shops, bakeries (ideally with personality - not just corporate feel).
Bakeries would be fabulous; imagine skytrain stations smelling like freshly baked bread! Make this a nice place to be, not merely a boring place to wait. Burrard station mid-level should have this pronto! Kiosks directly on some skytrain platform are also a great idea.
These things could be money makers for Translink, while improving the rider experience at the same time.
Load Buses Better Load buses from the back doors anytime there is a bottleneck at the front door. Faster loading speeds speeds up the system for everyone. Front-door only loading is like bad DRM that inconveniences everyone from a fear of a few. Translink is shooting themselves in the foot by introducing a bottleneck into the system at the front door of every bus, at every stop.
Improve Bus Stops The walls of bus shelters are being wasted right now. Put maps of the city here! And transit maps, and a nice 'You are here' dot. This would be a great boon for tourists and new users.
Open the Data There are lots of people who would love to build services using the route/timing data Translink has. So open up the data and let them! The core competency of Translink is not information technology; open-source it.
Make It Happen Translink That's the end of my list. I hope that Translink moves on these items. They could make a big difference to our transit service here. Props to the all the participants at Vancouver Transit Camp for bringing out these suggestions.
Translink has finally finished their official system to get upcoming bus times via text message. To use it:
- Send a text message to phone number 33333. - The text inside the message you send needs to be the 5 digit unique number for the bus stop you're at. You can find this number in the upper right hand corner of all bus stop signs (or look on the TransLink website). - They will text you back with upcoming bus numbers and times.
I tested this service out today and it worked for me. The reply text came back very fast too. Nice!
The government could enable some form of this here by giving taxis the ability to pick up multiple passengers. Taking it further, ad-hoc carpooling at transit hubs could eventually fill many of the empty seats in cars on the road.
Vancouver Transit Camp is an open-invitation unconference about transportation being held on December 8th. The BC government has shown an appalling lack of wisdom in handling transportation planning. I'm hopeful that the geeks of Vancouver can start improving things despite them. Check the website for some funky transit inspired designs, sign-up info, and more.
There are signs up all over Granville Island asking you for feedback on some planned improvements. They direct you to www.speak-up.ca, which has an online feedback form you can fill out, along with lots more information about the changes Granville Island is considering.
I filled out their feedback form, and here are my extra suggestions:
More maps and sign-posts everywhere. It's way too easy to get lost there now.
Better public transport connections. How about a bus that actually goes onto Granville Island?
More nightlife. The fringe festival is a great example of how hopping GI could be at night. Keeping 1 aquabus going later into the night would be helpful here.
Proponents of hedonics, or happiness economics, have been gaining influence... [They] assert that, contrary to the guiding principle of a century of economists, income is a poor measure of happiness. Economic growth in England and the U.S. in the past half-century hasn't measurably increased life satisfaction.
How do you make people happier?
Recent studies on life satisfaction show that commuting makes people more unhappy than anything else in life. (It is, apparently, the opposite of sex.) Commuting also happens to rob us of time for family and friends.
The facts show that building freeways is not a good way to reduce commute times.
The only major Canadian city where commute times didn't shoot up in the past decade was freeway-free Vancouver, where the city stopped adding road capacity in 1997 and has been aggressively "traffic-calming" ever since.
The mayor of Bogata started dramatic changes in their transportation system and funding.
"A city can be friendly to people or it can be friendly to cars, but it can't be both," the new mayor announced. He shelved the highway plans and poured the billions saved into parks, schools, libraries, bike routes and the world's longest "pedestrian freeway."
He increased gas taxes and prohibited car owners from driving during rush hour more than three times per week. He also handed over prime space on the city's main arteries to the Transmilenio, a bus rapid-transit system based on that of Curitiba, Brazil.
Bogotans almost impeached their new mayor. Business owners were outraged. Yet by the end of his three-year term, Mr. Peņalosa was immensely popular and his reforms were being lauded for making Bogota remarkably fairer, more tolerable and more efficient.
Moreover, by shifting the budget away from private cars, Mr. Peņalosa was able to boost school enrolment by 30 per cent, build 1,200 parks, revitalize the core of the city and provide running water to hundreds of thousands of poor.
How relevant is this for North America?
When Manhattan held a conference in October asking for a prescription for the gridlocked streets of New York, Mr. Peņalosa cheerily suggested banning cars entirely from Broadway.
"He got a standing ovation," observed an astounded Deputy Borough President Rose Pierre-Louis. New York is now considering charging drivers to enter Manhattan.
Mr. Peņalosa was also given a hero's welcome by hundreds of cheering urbanists, planners and politicians at last summer's World Urban Forum in Vancouver. Stuart Ramsey, a B.C. transportation engineer, suggested it was because the Colombian had gone ahead and done what they had all been talking about for years.
"Bogota has demonstrated that it is possible to make dramatic change to how we move around in our cities in a very short time frame," Mr. Ramsey said afterward. "It's simply a matter of choosing to do so."
It all ties into climate change too.
"We could improve our air quality and dramatically reduce our emissions any time we want. It's easy to do. All it would take is a can of paint and you'd have dedicated bus lanes. It doesn't require huge amounts of money. It simply requires a choice."
EPIC 2007 is a buzzword friendly event going on this weekend in Vancouver. I'm in favor of so-called "ethical shopping" and it seems like that's what EPIC is targeting. I'm going to try to check it out.
EPIC is a new kind of exhibition celebrating leading companies who care about the consumer. The community. The planet. And they're making great products and offering exceptional services that don't compromise style or function.
Join us as we introduce the new breed of environmentally friendlier, smart, stylish products and savvy services that allow shoppers to feel good about their purchases in more ways than one.
Altered Oceans is a five-part series by the LA Times investigating the changing conditions in the world's oceans. It goes in depth in some different areas, and the overall picture is not good. The oceans are moving towards their conditions 650,000 years ago: full of toxic bacteria, algae, and simple organisms, while lacking higher order creatures such as mammals, coral and fish.
One thing that really impressed me about Seattle is that in the downtown area bus rides are free. This seems like a great way to improve people movement and reduce road congestion in the core of the city. I'm interested to learn more about the history of this, and how it's worked out in practice. Some quick searches don't turn up anything though, and my internet access is limited while I'm travelling.
The conference has been good too =). More on that later...
I went out to Vancouver'sCritical Mass yesterday. 200 cyclists riding together in a fun filled, human fueled, car displacing celebration of bicycles. It was really fabulous. It was the first time I had gone to such an event, but I am definitely going to be attending regularly from now on. People said that once the summer gets going turnout can increase to 1000+ people!
Cycling is such an awesome way to get around the city. Get your exercise, help the environment, see the sights up close, and it's very cost effective. I find operating my human powered vehicle liberating. Cars will always have their place (long trips, etc), but bikes are so much more fitting for an inter-city commute. I find it pretty sad seeing all the cars with only 1 person in them sitting in traffic. Go get a bike!
Also, at the (very fun) party afterwards somebody brought their drum and we jammed on it for a little while. Just the two of us banging on her little drum outside while some spectators enjoyed it. Very nice. I think I'm going to get myself a drum out here. Then see if I can join a drum circle of some sort, or perhaps try and help incubate a Vancouver version of the Tam Tams.