Friday, May 17, 2019

Who's not in the room?

The transportation consultant Jarett Walker reminds himself to start every meeting with “Who’s not in the room?”
There was someone not in the room where this downtown mobility project was in development. This person also was not in the rooms when the Terminal-Nicol project or the Transportation Master Plan or the Downtown Waterfront Lands master plan work was done.
This person, a professional with associated credentials and experience, self-identifies and is identified by others based on her work as an urbanist. The urbanist, as with the other disciplines around the table, notably the traffic engineers, adds to the outcome of the project not just with technical skill but also with a unique sensibility.
In other cities it’s evident that the urban planning department is staffed by urbanists and that they are able to hold their own against the dominant silos who as Brent Toderian says, tend to think they have a veto over other departments. There's no evidence that even if an urbanist is confidently represented in our planning department that she is able to bake urbanism into this project. Nanaimo should be directing resources to its urbanization big time. It’s urgent.
Without an urbanist influence from early in process, the urbanist perspective and critique that I bring is unwelcome. It’s too late and it’s just the opinion of one citizen. I get that. But in the absence of that urbanist influence it becomes all the more important to seek the perspective and critique of the professional who is an urbanist.
Consider: two plans of the highest quality over the last 10 or so years were lead by former VIU VP Dave Witty, the Downtown Waterfront Lands, and Victoria architect Franc D’Ambrosio, Downtown Urban Plan and Guidelines. Peer review doesn’t come with much higher praise than the D’Ambrosio-lead Downtown Urban Plan and Guidelines which won a Royal Architectural Institute of Canada National Urban Design Award in 2014.
There isn’t as far as I can see a self-corrective mechanism within our City Hall to test plans to ensure they achieve the highest possible level of excellence.
Plans have to be vetted by people like Franc D’Ambrosio, Brent Toderian, Jeff Speck (he’s in Vancouver over the next few days as you may know), the Jan Gehl organization Cities for People, Gil Penalosa’s 8 800 Cities… Franc D'Ambrosio continues to take an interest in and is protective of our wonderful downtown. We need to bring him back to help us.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Downtown mobility for humans of every shape and size, age and ability

Strikes me the Downtown Mobility Hub Project display boards might have been done for a city convinced that the big problems in its downtown renewal and revival have already been solved, and now we just need to tweak a little.
Someone (who they’ll listen to, that’s not you and me) has to tell the City—staff and Councillors—you can’t add other modes to an already overbuilt private car network. Car infrastructure has to be reduced to accommodate safe equitable walking, accessible mobilty for disabled, bicycling, and transit for every age and shape and size of human (and their pets!).

Here’s how to tell if this plan has merit : look for these kinds of things :
  • mentions of travel lane width reductions;
  • lane eliminations (road diets);
  • elimination of “beg buttons” at every City-controlled intersection in the urban core;
  • repurposing parking lots to urban squares and affordable housing;
  • elimination of right turns on red lights;
  • sidewalk extension lines including zebras across every intersection in the 800m urban zone.
You’ll find none. And if you see mention of a “roundabout” on the downtown waterfront, or use of the discredited term “jaywalker “ be afraid, be very afraid. (Cue Twilight Zone theme music)

Friday, May 10, 2019

Nanaimo's Downtown Mobility Hub Project

Subject: Downtown Mobility Hub Project
To: Bill Sims,
Director of Engineering & Public Works
Cc: Mayor&,

Bill, great news that the Downtown Mobility Hub Project is underway. Downtown, more than other neighbourhoods, belongs, to a great degree, to everyone in the city. At the same time it's home and place of work to thousands of Nanaimo-ites.
I want to register a concern about the process being employed. It is one that we have used several times and includes contracting citizen engagement to a consultant. I don’t believe a City Hall can outsource citizen engagement. This process results in my experience in the unintended consequence of the consultant, clearly a skilled and dedicated professional, being a buffer between city staff and Council. The lead on the project, its public face, in my view has to be a city staff person.
We have used different processes and I see different approaches in other cities. It’s increasingly common for city heads of transportation to take a proactive and very public role. Dale Bracewell in Vancouver and Dongho Chang in Seattle spring to mind. In Victoria Mayor Helps seems to be impressively taking the lead!
Locally another approach we’ve used as you know is rather than contract an engagement specialist we outsourced, if you like, the lead role itself. Victoria architect Franc D’Ambrosio’s award winning Downtown Urban Plan and Guidelines and former VIU VP Dave Witty’s South Downtown Waterfront Vision and Guiding Principles. I believe Dr Witty’s approach is one we should adopt.
A couple of weeks ago I was walking through the Vancouver Central Library atrium and there was a City of Vancouver pop-up display about the Granville Bridge Connector. Occurs to me that while we take a broad overview of the downtown hub, it would be beneficial to focus on its smaller components, as Vancouver has done focusing on the bridge. As our earlier exchange, a tactical approach on Front Street over the summer would be an ideal focal point for this project.
Thanks for the chance to run this by you. I look forward to the creation of downtown Nanaimo’s "multimodal transportation network – one that is safe, inclusive, accessible, and interconnected to all the places we love.”
Frank Murphy

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Friday, May 3, 2019

Walkable City Rules!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Monday, April 29, 2019

Friday, April 26, 2019