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by Naomi Buell, Marketing Assistant for VIA Architecture

Last Friday, we here in the VIA Vancouver office were very fortunate to welcome Jarrett Walker. Some of you may know him from his blog humantransit.org, others may know him as a transit consultant, or here in Vancouver, you may know him from the work he has done for TransLink or the great presentation he recently gave at SFU to a sold out crowd of 240 people.

However you may know him, you know that he has extensive transit experience (20 years) and has worked all over the world. With his first degree being in theatre art, as he says on his blog, “he is probably the only person with peer-reviewed publications in both the Journal of Transport Geography and Shakespeare Quarterly.” He also holds a PhD from Stanford University and grew up in Portland.

His presentation began by discussing branding, maps and signage. Specifically, he referred to ways of differentiating transit lines through the use of colours and the different types of information that can be displayed on transit maps. He referred to a few maps he had seen or had consulted on, suggesting that there is no real need to have a map that differentiates by transit type. For example a map should show both bus and SkyTrain routes.

To take this even further, Berlin’s public transportation map outlines routes without showing whether they consist of buses or trams or both. In many European cities, the trams are supposed to be indistinguishable …

Monday News Roundup

Aug 09, 2010

China to build ginormous buses that cars can drive under 

Daycare centre at SFU meets the living building challenge, it produces more energy then it consumes (Price Tags)

Smart city governments grow produce for the people (Grist) The new attitude at forward-thinking city halls seems to be, in a tough economy, why expend precious resources growing ornamental plants, when you can grow edible ones?

How to turn a payphone into a library (GOOD) Have an old phone booth in your neighborhood sitting empty? Fill it with books!

Urban farms breaking through concrete (Grist)

The beautiful game brings dignity to the streets (Kaid Benefield @ NRDC) Street soccer is played in one fashion or another at least informally all over the world.  But, in this case, SSUSA “utilizes the power of soccer to turn the lives of homeless for the better,” says the organization in a press release.

TriMet’s Dirty Words Twitter Haiku Contest (TriMet) We invited you to write haiku based on each dirty word TriMet is trying to eliminate from our civic vocabulary.

Cities are for People: The limits of localism(World Changing)

Who are you and what do you do? I’m an intern architect working with VIA Architecture.

What made you decide to go into your field? Good question…was it Lego? Maybe but too cliché Was it Howard Roarke? Nah, too much ego. Then what was it? Okay since you really want to know…Mike Brady and the fact that he worked from home in a low rancher…

What did your family think of your chosen field? They were alright with it. They would have preferred a profession that was easier to pronounce when it came to telling their friends what field their son was in.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why? A professor who said in a critique, “Show me, don’t tell me or I will smite you.”

What inspires you? 1. Art 2. Community. Relating with other people who share your interests, belief systems, can be amazing. To feel that you are part of something that matters no matter how small. It encourages you to make your contributions mean something. You become more creative in the process and perhaps in the end be a better person.

What schooling is required for success in your career? Elementary school, Secondary school, post secondary school, travel, life experiences

What is the best advice you were ever given? A professor who said (in reference to keeping things simple) “You can’t put 10 pounds of crap into a 5 pound bag.”

What advice would you give someone considering a career like yours? Look at it as an opportunity to make the world a good place to live …

by Catherine Calvert, VIA Architecture

I recently had the opportunity to attend the American Public Transportation Association’s annual conference on Sustainability in New York City. I came away with a clear appreciation of how challenging these times are for transit agencies, particularly in the United States.

The ability to survive the economic downturn has moved very much to the forefront of many agencies’ agendas, and sustainability has had a tendency to fall into the “would be nice to have” category of considerations. As Jay Walder, Chair of New York’s Metropolitan Transit Agency expressed, “we like the concept of sustainability much more when our economy is robust”. And yet, treating sustainability as if it were at odds with financial responsibility is clearly short-sighted.

Sustainability has been described variously as being a three-legged stool that relies interdependently on the “three E’s” (Environment, Equity, Economy) or the “three P’s” (People, Planet, Prosperity). In applying these ideas to public transit systems, it’s often difficult to connect the concepts with the reality of a public agency, particularly in the realm of Social Sustainability (the “Equity” or “Prosperity” aspect). However I particularly enjoyed Mr. Walder’s description of public transit sustainability as a trifecta — Customer Service, Environmental Benefit, and Bottom Line.

What works well here is that transit agencies are already focused on customer service as a core mission, so equating this with Social Sustainability is an easy conceptual link to make. The other thing I like about this occurred to me once I’d looked up the word “trifecta” …

Monday News Roundup

Aug 02, 2010

Blueprints for a Better ‘Burb (NYTimes) That the Murphys, the couple recently arrested for spying for the Russians from Montclair, N.J., were described by a flabbergasted neighbor as “suburbia personified” is telling, an observation that perfectly sums up our collective notion that the suburbs are chock full of white, middle-class families, both nuclear and normal.

But that prevailing vision contradicts the reality of suburbia today.

Another Step Toward Green Design (Forbes) With help from star architect William McDonough, a ”green products” institute is born.

Small Shoots, Big Shades: Beautiful Tropical Bamboo Home (dornob) A climate-specific design for Costa Rica by an architect for his mother, this is a unique dream home that combines local building traditions, modern techniques and an extreme sensitivity to connecting the interior with the wild and wonderful outdoors around the house.

The G-List – the top green buildings since 1980. Why so different from Vanity Fair’s “most important works of architecture since 1980“?

Frank Lloyd Wright the Villain? (The Overhead Wire) The author talks about his belief that Frank Lloyd Wright and Henry Ford were the greatest villains of the 20th century in their encouraged suburban development taking us away from the beneficial village community and pushing us to rely too heavily on automobiles and suburban development.

Saving Seattle’s trees one bird at a time(SeattlePI) Seattle City Light contractors cut back trees to create clearance for power lines on the edge of Kiwanis Ravine on Thursday July 29, 2010 in Magnolia. The City …

Who are you and what do you do? My name is Brian O’Reilly, and I’ve just officially joined the Via team. Since beginning as a contract employee in April of this year, I’ve primarily provided architectural design support for the SR99 Vent Buildings.

What made you decide to go into your field? In retrospect, I am surprised it took as long as it did for me to settle on architecture – it seems so obvious now. It fulfills my need for both an artistic and arithmetical outlet – a balance of qualitative and quantitative. My sketchbook page should be filled with both formal explorations, as well as a few rough proportioning calculations, hopefully the buildings I have a hand in will reflect that.

Or, this could all simply be a means of carrying on my childhood obsession with fort-building.

What did your family think of your chosen field? I happen to be on a long drive from Vermont to New Jersey with my entire family, so here are a few quotes:

“Damn proud” “Right up your alley” “All those Lego kits paid off” “A little surprised you didn’t go into landscape architecture”

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why? Professor Don Corner at the University of Oregon taught me the importance of intent. Such a simple way of evaluating the success of a design, but often overlooked – What is your intent? What is in support of this intention, and what detracts? Easy.

Also, quick shouts out to Tim Simpson for chemistry, John Padden for …

New Separated Bike Lane for Downtown Vancouver

by Stephanie Doerksen, VIA Architecture

On June 15th, the City of Vancouver officially opened a new separated bike lane on Dunsmuir street, continuing the lane recently opened on the Dunsmuir viaduct, and connecting the popular Frances/Adanac bike route with the downtown core. Cyclists from all over greater Vancouver are calling this a huge success in terms of cycling infrastructure.

Without a doubt this separated lane will provide a much safer route into downtown and go a long way towards encouraging potential cyclists who are uncomfortable biking in city traffic. So far the lane runs to Hornby street and the City has plans to connect it to a future north – south lane, also separated from traffic, which would provide a connection with the Burrard street bridge. Currently, there are several options on the table for the location of the north-south lane, including Burrard, Hornby and Thurlow streets. The city plans to hold a round of public consultation on potential routes beginning this summer.

Although the majority of press surrounding the opening of the new bike lane had been positive, there has also been a certain amount of controversy. Most notably, the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association has made some negative comments surrounding the lack of consultation prior to the installation of new bike-related traffic signaling and the implementation of the bike lane itself.

Similarly, some drivers are angry about several new right turn restrictions off of Dunsmuir, as well as the usual complaints that …

Friday Feature: JP

Jul 26, 2010

Who are you and what do you do? My primary role is as the Director of Practice for the Vancouver office which involves much of the day to day running of VIA as a business in terms of tackling issues related to projects, budgets, legal and staffing as well as the computer systems and most general operational issues. I also head up (with Matt in Seattle) the mixed use and major projects sector. So I’m quite busy.

What made you decide to go into your field? After a failed attempt to join the Royal Navy (not quite British enough apparently) and the Canadian Navy (“sorry we are full”)I thought what would be better than spending all day drawing (we were still on drawing boards then). Also I felt that I needed an occupation where at the end of the day I could stand back and see something tangible as the outcome of my work.

What did your family think of your chosen field? They were all for it providing that I stuck at it. I had a habit of getting bored quickly. I also think that they were just pleased that I was going to college.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why? There are two actually:

Tim Baker was both my Engineering tutor and my Professional Management tutor. He was great in turning what could have been dull subjects into ones that I found the most exciting. We always knew when Tim was going to talk about concrete as …

Great Upcoming Event

Jul 20, 2010

A Field Guide to Transit Quarrels

Where: GGLO Space at the Steps, 1301 First Ave., Level A (Enter through door located about 1/4 of the way down the Harbor Steps (click for map) Date: Thursday, July 29, 2010 Time: 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Great City and Streets for All Seattle are co-hosting Jarrett Walker, who will explore the intense and often bitter quarrels that crop up when cities try to decide what kind of transit to build or operate. Working from his 20 years of experience as a transit planning consultant, Jarrett will discuss some of the most common confusions that emerge in debates about transit, and offer suggestions for how to increase clarity in these conversations by recognizing the difficult choices that arise from transit’s intrinsic geometry and costs.

Jarrett currently posts his thoughts on public transit planning and policy on his blog Human Transit.

Monday News Roundup

Jul 19, 2010

Streets ahead: A revolution in urban planning (The Independent) Cities of the future won’t be filled with androids but with ‘silver citizens’. And that means a revolution in urban planning

Coal Protest: Moms Begin Ascent of Mt. Rainier! (Earth Justice) Four Washington moms have begun their attempt to summit Mount Rainier this weekend to deliver a strong message to their governor about coal.

Bouncing Back from the Disaster in the Gulf  (Huffington Post) The Gulf oil spill is yet another grim reminder that our society’s reliance on highly complex and centralized energy systems renders us highly vulnerable. In fact, there seems to be a correlation: the more complex and centralized a system, the more vulnerable it becomes.

Los Angeles Dreams of a New Downtown River Park (Inhabitat) A 100 year-old rail depot resides next to downtown Los Angeles, and next to the rail yard is the famous LA viaduct, a ribbon of concrete and steel cutting thought the heart of the city. The city recently funded a study to re-envision this 20th century monolithic development as a 21st century park complete with a green belt, a transportation corridor, and a recreation area lined with mixed-use developments.

Sound Walls Made From Grass (Planetizen) The Ohio Department of Transportation is experimenting with “green noise walls” instead of the standard eyesore, using bags of soil sprouting greenery as an alternative to concrete.

Ridership down in America? look deeper (Human Transit) London’s Bicycle Superhighway Opens Today! (Inhabitat) As …