[sotto voice] my first interview…so nervous…be cool Ben, be cool…breath…what, we’re rolling? Son of a…
Those of you who are avid TRR readers (I know you’re out there. Hi Mom!), I’ve spent the past year flirting with bike commuting. The more comfortable with biking I’ve gotten, the more I’ve gotten linked into sites that link me with other riders, provide me with tips and point me towards relevant news.
Of late one of my favourites has been BikingToronto.com. I remember coming across the site quite a while ago, but looked it back up again following a recent relaunch. I have been very impressed with the new site; it does a wonderful job of creating dialogue between bikers from relatively micro level issues such as the best way to clean your bike in the winter to macro issues like recent survey results on biking numbers in the city.
So far I’m digging it and encourage you to check it out, especially if you ride in the Toronto area. I’ve dug it so much, in fact, that I asked BikingToronto founder Joe T. to sit down for a chat.
When I’m not moonlighting as a millionaire-playboy transit enthusiast, I have a day job as a mild-mannered policy analyst. Sometimes, however, my alter egos overlap and I find some pretty cool stuff.
I came across this research from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Services when I attended a presentation by one of the authors, Dr. Richard Glazier. The study utilizes a whole whack of data, ranging from Stats Can to City of Toronto GIS data. It looks at diabetes prevalence across Toronto, and adds a whole bunch of fun map layers.
Most interesting is the links that are drawn between diabetes prevalence and how the urban form contributes to it. The authors developed a measure termed the “Activity Friendly Index (AFI).” Basically it combines a number of indicators (crime rates, income levels, car dependency, land use) which can be used to rate an area on how easy it is to be healthy.
The result? The lower the AFI score, the worse health problems an area will have. Check out some of these maps.
Transit users in Toronto have been lamenting for years over the lack of a coherent trip planner on the TTCs God awful website. A recent beta release of the TTCs new and improved website only hinted at a trip planner in the works, and even that reference appears to have been removed (oh, and FYI, TTC website guys, the new site looks better than the old site – which is akin to saying dirt tastes great compared to feces.)
So, what is a poor, confused transit rider to do? Why, go to MyTTC and get your route mapped for you there. MyTTC was developed by a couple of transitphiles who were, like most transit riders, tired of waiting around for the TTC to get their act together. So, after hours spent organizing the mess of transit data into something coherent, the developers produced a little gem of a trip planner.
As the developers note, this is a work in progress and they stress that they need users to help them make it better. When I mapped a route yesterday from my house to one of my favorite bars I noticed that it had you walking a little further and taking a bus you didn’t really need to take when leaving my place. So, like a good user I sent some feedback and lo and behold, Kieran, one of the developers, had gotten back to me last night and said that they were still adjusting the weight given to walking and that it might be a bit high. Now that’s service.
So, for those of you in the GTA, use MyTTC, provide feedback, support great homegrown work!
It appears that the federal government has finally gotten their house in order and is getting much needed funding to the Province of Ontario after 2 years of stalling by the Harper government. The feds are chipping in their $697-million share of the $2-billion dollar Spadina subway extension, according to the Toronto Star.
Any subway extension is good news in my book (even the poorly conceived and pointless Sheppard line, but barely), but this stretch is especially important to Toronto. Take a look at the proposed extension below (for the full view, check out my subway map here):
Image courtesy of Spadina Subway Extension Project
You heard that right, most of North America, Gwen and I have now joined the ranks of the car-less. Not careless, mind you. We still care. Lots.
We just ditched our 2004 Ford Escape in favour of, well, nothing. This comes as a surprise to many people I’ve talked to, especially, for some reason, to the dealership we were dealing with…here’s the phone conversation I had:
I thought I’d share a recent report from Joe Cortright (CEOs for Cities) titled Driven to the Brink: How the Gas Price Spike Popped the Housing Bubble and Devalued the Suburbs. Urban sprawl and transportation issues are one of my favorite topics, so this report was right up my alley.
You can find the full report here, but for those of you too lazy to click I’ll highlight some of the interesting bits.
Basically Cortright’s analysis find that the recent collapse of the U.S. housing market has partially obscured an even “tectonic shift in housing demand.” The report finds that housing price declines “are generally far more sever in far-flung suburbs and in metropolitan areas with weak close-in neighborhoods” and:
“Housing in cities and neighborhoods that require lengthy commutes and provide few transportation alternatives to the private vehicle are falling in value more precipitously than in more central, compact and accessible places.”
Basically, all you chumps who bought into the idea of living in the 5,000 sq ft house out in the suburbs are majorly screwed and cities that have good transit are better able to withstand the housing collapse.
If we ever have any hope of reducing our dependence on the personal automobile, I really feel we need to find an alternative that still gives someone at least the appearance of privacy and personal space.
I remember seeing something on “podcars” a number of years ago and thinking what a great idea they were. Then the concept seemed to fall off the radar.
Now it appears that London Heathrow will be running a short (3.5 km), driverless, podcar network to transport travellers from the parking lot to the terminal. While admittedly small, simply having a functioning, public example of this technology goes a long way towards eventual public acceptance.
While eliminating personal transportation is probably the best option from an environmental standpoint, I think actually working towards that is unrealistic and doomed to failure. We like our personal space, we like having the ability to choose when we take trips, and we like not sitting next to that guy who smells of onions, cigarettes, and Aqua Velva. I think something like this might be step in the right direction in moving us away from our current modes of transportation towards something a little more sustainable.
Next up, flying cars from Bob Cummings?