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OurYXE

Saskatoon Transit: Why Saskatoon Needs a Better Transit System

Hilary has a great post at OurYXE about why Saskatoon needs an improved transit system

  • Transit levels the playing field for low-income people – people on a fixed income or minimum wage, where the annual cost of operating a car takes a huge bite out of their bottom line. Giving households who spend most or all of their money on essentials a chance to increase their take-home pay increases spending, boosting the economy, and the chance to move upwards in society. Timely access to employment, services, and family increases quality of life; for people who are unable to drive, a good transit system is worth it for the sense of autonomy over mobility it provides as one is not ‘trapped’.
  • Transit reduces demand on roadways, for parking, and is a key part of helping cities achieve higher densities. Roads cost money to maintain; expansion of roads takes property off tax rolls. Large intersections restrict access to properties on the corners, lowering attractiveness and therefore property values, increasing demand for police services as they become blighted. Bridges, as we know very well, are not cheap; it makes economic sense to maximise the ones we currently have. Underground parking is very expensive, driving up the cost of construction and thus the cost per unit of residential units situated above it. Single-car occupancy will not support the densities Saskatoon seeks to achieve in the downtown core. Reduced demand on the roadways reduces response times for emergency vehicles and people who for various reasons are unable to use transit.
  • Transit is not a viable option for all citizens; however non-users still benefit from lessened demand for parking and reduced congestion. Families with kids who are old enough to take the bus or senior members who are unable to drive anymore, Drivers in households with seniors who do not drive and children who are old enough to take the bus are freed from onerous chauffeur duties; kids gain a sense of independence and autonomy, while older adults can age in place.

The entire post is worth a read.

A bit of this and that

None of these really need a full blog post but for those that care and for those that don’t…

A New Project

I am starting a book that I hope to have done by the end of the year.  I have a full Moleskine of things that I have left out of my The StarPhoenix columns, thoughts that I haven’t shared on The Saskatoon Afternoon Show with David Kirton (or talked about after we got off the air), or are just ideas that I have been working on and haven’t done anything with.  Basically I am just trying to figure out Saskatoon and along with it, the ethos of Saskatchewan that makes us do things the way we do.

For many years Steven Johnson has been one of my favourite authors.  Instead of writing books about what he knows, he writes about what he does not understand and in the process of learning about a subject, he brings you along for the ride.  I hope to do the same thing.  Look for it 2015.

Sports and Politics

I read a great bio of Michael Grange who said he wanted to write about foreign affairs but he was offered a sports job.  I love writing about local and social issues but if Grantland calls, I am leaving it all behind (I’m kidding but the Grantland podcasts look like so much fun).  To pass the time between now and when Bill Simmons discovers me, I am now talking sports with David Kirton and Justin Blackwell on Wednesdays at 5:15 on the CKOM Saskatoon Afternoon roundtable.  David joked about it a few weeks ago that we should just talk sports and since then we have had quite a few roundtables with sports.  The response has been cool but I was at McNally Robinson the other day and a stranger comes up to me and says out of the blue, “You know, I really hate what Pete Carroll did at USC too.”  I looked at him and he said, “I attended Oregon” and shook my hand.  I can now check, “Call out Pete Carroll for cheating” off my bucket list.  

A Year in Saskatoon

I have been writing an OurYXE Neighbourhood Guide each week.  Every Wednesday and Sunday, I sit down and research what is good, bad, and interesting about a neighbourhood.  It’s been an incredible amount of fun exploring some of Saskatoon’s most loved (and unloved) neighbourhoods.  I have been discovering a lot of history and out of the way places to check out in each of them.  Part of the project is making sure we have some good photography for each neighbourhood which means I have been out a lot with a couple of cameras and my new 50mm f/1.8 lens.  While the cold hasn’t been a lot of fun to shoot photos in, seeing parts of Saskatoon again for the first time has been excellent.

Along with the photos, I have been shooting a lot of video.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it but I had been thinking of a montage of a year in the life of Saskatoon.  Something that showed the bitter cold of winter and the incredible warmth of fun we have in the summer.  Saskatoon isn’t all good and it definitely isn’t all bad.

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted it to look like.  Many of the videos I had seen had been time lapses and I have about 5000 time lapse photos taken, I was initially been thinking of doing something with time lapse. It’s fun and amazing but i miss the emotion of just video.

 If it is as half as interesting as this video by Andy Clancy, I’ll be very happy.

Saskatoon has some great places to film but I want more than that, I want to see if I can find the kind of street life and community vibrancy in Saskatoon.  If you have ideas for where me and my DSLR need to be, let me know.  As I chase some city scenes, hopefully I will find some stories for the book, Saskatoon Afternoon’s roundtable, and my columns.  Oh yeah, there will be some fun stuff for my blog as well.

Now if only it would warm up outside.

OurYXE Neighbourhood Guides

OurYXE was never intended to just be a podcast and if you have been paying attention at all, you will notice we are adding new features to the site in 2014.  We have started with adding Saskatoon neighbourhood guides and have the intention of creating a guide of the best and worst of each neighbourhood in Saskatoon.  So far we have done one for downtown, Riversdale, Nutana, and Mayfair.  

Creating them takes a lot of time and even more time is needed to take the photographs needed to bring the project to life.  I have been able to cheat by using some public domain images of Wikimedia, most of the photos have been taken by myself or those submitting to the growing OurYXE Photo Pool on Flickr (if you haven’t yet, please join and add your photos).

That’s the best part of the project.  Exploring Saskatoon neighbourhoods that no one thinks of or cares about.  Last year I was researching a project for Stewart Properties in what is the most uninspiring neighbourhood in the city.  As Wendy and I walked the neighbourhood, explored the parks, found shops and businesses that I never realized were there, I realized that I would really enjoy living there.  I later followed the same process for my own neighbourhood and created a site for Mayfair.  When you stop, sit down and write it out, there is far more to our neighbourhoods than you realize.

That is the plan for these neighbourhood guides.  I want to explore all of Saskatoon, find out what is cool, and share it with others.  I am already excited about visiting and writing about several parks, hidden stores, and exploring some odd urban planning decisions just to see what is there.

Of course my fear is that I find a neighbourhood that has no redeeming qualities and absolutely nothing of interest worth exploring.  If that happens I’ll make Sean or Hilary write that neighbourhood guide.

The inspiration for the OurYXE Neighbourhood Guides is Norm Fisher’s amazing guides that he has created for his real estate site.  His work is the foundation for many Wikipedia entries and our course our own guides.  While our focus is different, his neighbourhood guides are a great resource for anyone wanting to know more about their neighbourhood.

OurYXE Neighborhood Guides: Downtown Saskatoon

OurYXE would like to take you for a tour of Saskatoon and are launching local neighbourhood guides that are full of history, interesting sights, and even things to avoid.

The first neighbourhood guide is Downtown Saskatoon.

Downtown Saskatoon in 1950

You may know it by it’s formal name, the Central Business District or just simply as that place where they park on angles.  However you know it, we’d like to dig deeper and show you some of it’s nooks and crannies.  From there we will head west and explore Riversdale before heading to the old site of the Temperance Colony and visit Nutana.  The goal is to create a guide and photograph each of Saskatoon’s neighbourhoods by the time 2015 rolls around.  Wish us luck.

A call for photos

Flickr photo poolOurYXE is launching a photo pool for Saskatoon photographers.  The plan is to create a pool of photos of Saskatoon to be posted to the site (with a link back and credit).  If you are interested, join the pool on Flickr and upload your photos to the pool.

So if you have any great Saskatoon shots, let’s share them with the world.

Coming to a City Hall Near You

This is what happens when you spend too much time watching video of Saskatoon City Council debates.

What is regressive taxation?

We have a great exchange here between the Mayor and city finance administration on why a flat tax is more regressive then an increase in property taxes.  The mayor is kind of arguing anecdotally that people who live in expensive homes, aren’t making the most amount of money.  It is true in some situations; Warren Buffet lives modestly in Omaha and the CEO of Costco lives in a simple bi-level house but statistically, people live in the biggest home they can afford. 

The boat and RV argument is a weird one for me because once you do there, you can’t really go stop at just boats and RVs.  Do you start to take into consideration the value of cars, golf clubs, baseball card collections or books.  I spend a lot of money on books and technology so should I pay more city taxes?

Our Mayor lives at the Willows which will pay more under a property tax increase than those living in Westview will.  Undoubtably he is hearing about it from his neighbours and his largely suburban electoral base who wants to pay less for roads.  It’s either that or he just doesn’t understand the concepts around basic taxation.  Take your pick.

Of course al valorem taxes are regressive because it isn’t based on income but it’s less regressive than a base tax which targets everyone equally regardless of income.  In Saskatoon’s case, it means that 85% of households would pay more under a flat tax and the wealthiest 15% would pay less.

Podcast with Jason Roberts at OurYXE

In case missed it, we interviewed Jason Roberts at OurYXE last weekend.  He had a great talk about neighbourhood organizing, tactical urbanism, and how we can make our cities a better place to live with grassroots community organizing.  Its well worth listening to.

I posted this video of Jason Roberts last week and you can find out more of him at Team Better Block.

The OurYXE Podcast with Cam Broten

I forgot to post this but we had a great interview with the Leader of the Opposition Cam Broten the other night.  The interview went well, the behind the scenes did not.

Last year I was at Cam’s house for a meeting (he is my MLA) and his wife Ruth made these cookies that everyone was raving about.  The plate went around and ran out before it got to me (am pretty sure Frank Quesnell took two).  I was sitting right beside Cam so I couldn’t really make a run at the cookies while he was talking.  The cookies were so good that their goodness actually interrupted the meeting as people savoured the cookies.

Later Ruth came out with batch number two of the cookies but Cam declined then and because of sitting arrangements, the guy next to me got the cookies and the scene was reversed.  Long story short, everyone went on and on about how awesome the cookies were.  I went home and made a note of never sitting beside a politician if there are cookies being served.

Cam showed up for the podcast with a bribe, some fresh out of the oven cinnamon buns made by Ruth.  I was momentarily excited and then I realized that I had a MacBook in front of me and computers but cinnamon buns do not mix.  As soon as the podcast was done, Sean Shaw made a move for them but only took one of the two containers.  I scared Hilary off when I pulled a cutting torch out of my bad and pretended to head towards her bike.  

There I was, the last cinnamon bun.  If I had worked fast, it could have been mind then but we were driving to the Rook and Raven in Shaw’s new Volkswagen and if I had gotten it sticky, he would have made me walk home.

After some beverages (Diet Coke), I make it home, open my bag and before I can pull out the cinnamon bun Wendy grabs it and eats it.  Says it was the best cinnamon bun she ever had in her life.  I have never been so betrayed.

I went to the fridge, gagged back a glass of V8 and went to bed.

You can listen to our podcast with Cam below.  I’m off to find something to eat.

Episode 020

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New & Noteworthy

OurYXE in iTunes

As noticed by Chris Enns, OurYXE‘s podcast appeared in iTunes’ New & Noteworthy category last week.  You can listen to our podcast online, subscribe via RSS, or listen in with iTunes.  There are also two new episodes that went online this weekend.  Episode 8 with Pat Lorje and Episode 9 which features Sean and I talking about an independent election commission and Saskatoon’s inability to understand how things like snow removal is an essential service that needs to be provided.

Show Me Your Mic

Chris Enns hosts the Show Me Your Mic, a podcast about podcasting and their gear that he produces as part of SSKTN.  He talks for an hour to ninety minutes with other podcasting nerds.  They talk about why they do what they do and how they can do it better.  Since we have been putting together OurYXE, it’s been a pretty big help from those that podcast better than we do.  If you are a podcaster or just a nerd, check out his podcast and subscribe via iTunes.

Changes in Saskatoon’s downtown

Sean is more than a talking head folks.  Dr. Shaw talks about the emergence of mixed use residential in Saskatoon downtown.

There are many poorly conceived and designed buildings starting to fill the ample room in Saskatoon’s downtown – the Holiday Inn and a couple other buildings in the once promising Warehouse District stand-out.

However, Saskatoon has started to reap the benefits supplied by some developers who are designing and constructing buildings that follow current best practices in architectural design and ensuring that their buildings interaction with the street is fully considered.

A recent example would be the River Centre building housed on the corner of 19th St E and 2nd Ave S (HERE). The building is characterized by ground floor commercial/retail (including the State & Main restaurant) and office space on the upper four floors. The all glass facade blends in well with the surrounding neighbourhood and river. Additionally, the restaurant has proven to be a popular attraction and has served to bring foot traffic even further down 2nd Ave, where it once mostly stopped at the Galaxy Theatre. The original requirement for a setback of a few metres for the fourth floor would have been a good addition, but given the building doesn’t reach any higher I think it can be forgiven in this case. Finally, the buildings website still indicates that it is striving for a LEED Gold certification. The developers – Tonko Realty Advisors – are supposedly looking to build a companion building on the northwest corner of 19th/2nd Ave as well.

There is more.  Make sure you read the entire post.

Councilor Mairin Loewen

Councillor Mairin Loewen

Councillor Mairin Loewen is on the latest OurYXE Podcast.  She talks about Ward 7 alleyways, bridges (we love to talk about bridges), taxes, snow removal, and her NCAA bracket.  It was a good hour long discussion where she shared some really good insight on the future of the city.  Our ambush style of questioning did take a bit of a toll when she threatened me with failing bridges but if Bob Woodward can be threatened by Obama’s staff, I can take it from Loewen.  Of course I can no longer go to the east side of the city until we get the water taxi issue sorted out.

Dr. Larry Beasley on the OurYXE Podcast

Photo

In case you missed it, Dr. Larry Beasley joined The OurYXE podcast on Thursday and talked about urban planning, architecture, homelessness, and fixing suburbia.  It’s a good interview and I learned a lot about how we can make Saskatoon a better place to live and work.

Janice Braden on the OurYXE podcast

Janice Braden

Janice Braden joined us for the OurYXE podcast this week where we talked for a little over an hour about the Municipal Planning Commission, architecture, affordable housing, and city building.  It was a great discussion and I learned a lot from Janice.   Next weekend we are looking at chatting with Shaun Dyer, the executive director of the John Howard Society.  We will be talking about corrections, crime, and our community.