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.
A pedestrian bridge in that location could be an incredible asset to Saskatoon in linking together the Nutana area and downtown, similar to what Calgary has experienced with their pedestrian bridge. It’s a place where people want to be.
A group of Saskatoon residents who are renewing calls to rethink the future of the derelict Traffic Bridge say a new bridge shouldn’t involve vehicle traffic at all.
“Lots and lots of people have changed their minds about that bridge. We’ve lived without it for three years,” said Marcel D’Eon, one of the founders of the Saskatoon Coalition to Revisit and Reimagine Our Urban Bridge. The group, formed in June, is the latest to call for a pedestrian-and cycling-only bridge to replace the iconic 104-year old span, which was closed permanently in 2010 because of safety concerns.
During initial public consultations, a majority of residents said they wanted a pedestrian-only bridge. Despite those findings, city council pushed ahead with plans to build a $35-million replica steel truss Traffic Bridge capable of carrying vehicles as well as people and bikes.
While there is still no funding for the bridge, city officials have applied to the federal government’s P3 fund for joint Traffic Bridge and Parkway Bridge projects that have a combined value of over $230 million. The province’s portion of the cash is expected to come through the provincial government’s SaskBuilds program. Neither level of government has confirmed its support for the project.
If funding is approved, the Traffic Bridge would be complete by 2017. It would be financed under the same scheme and built by the same company as the parkway, to save around $250,000 in costs.
By bundling the construction of a new Traffic Bridge with the north parkway project, council effectively decided for the second time that the bridge would be a vehicle bridge.
I get asked all of the time what I read and I thought I would toss it into a blog post.
For news, the first site of the day I check on National Newswatch. If you aren’t checking it out everyday, you are doing your news all wrong. I then check out the links of The Morning News and browse Metafilter. I have had an account for years but rarely log in. I check out the National Post, Macleans, and The Globe and Mail. Once I get the national news I check out The Toronto Star and Calgary Herald. While not daily reads, I do read everything that is posted to the Hill Times.
The two sites that I explore the most are Yahoo! Sports and ProFootballTalk. I check Yahoo! Sports about 10 times a day and ProFootballTalk in the morning and then again in the evening. It is America’s Cup season which means that I spend a lot of time on YouTube. I generally watch the 20 minute race recap and if I have time, I watch the whole race on my TV via the PS3 app. YouTube on your television will forever change the way you watch TV. It is amazing.
I also follow Doug Smith’s Sports Blog where he lives and mostly dies with the Raptors. I read it because he is a great source of Raptors news but also because he has a unique blogging style that I really like. Once I am there, I generally find myself in The Star’s sports section where the goal is to avoid the Toronto Maple Leafs coverage. Then it is to check out the National Post sports but more or less I am just there to see if I missed anything that Bruce Arthur wrote and I missed his tweet to it.
Sportsnet.ca is my next sports stop and that is see what Michael Grange is writing about. Much of Sportsnet is written by television personalities and it shows but Grange is a sportswriter.
I don’t blog a lot about military technology and affairs but I do read Wired’s Danger Room daily and Tom Rick’s The Best Defence Blog. For urban discussions I follow a lot of people on Twitter but I also check out the Direct Transfer, Streets Blog, and The Atlantic Cities.
For blogs like most of the free world, I read Kottke.org daily and check out Gordon Price‘s blog weekly. I would read City Hall Notebook more but The StarPhoenix kind of let it die, although it seems to be coming back to life lately.
There are always a couple of books on the go. I own a Kindle but don’t use it much. Mostly because I prefer to browse Indigo and McNally Robinson. For all of the wonderful things that Amazon.com does, browsing books is the domain of the bookstore.
What am I missing? Suggestions?
As Michael Bloomberg recently wrote in the Financial Times, great urban centres, like New York, London and Toronto, can’t outpace the rapidly growing cities of Asia or Latin America simply by offering lower costs, tax breaks or other subsidies. “For cities to have sustained success, they must compete for the grand prize: intellectual capital and talent,” he said. “I have long believed that talent attracts capital far more than capital attracts talent. The most creative individuals want to live in places that protect personal freedoms, prize diversity and offer an abundance of cultural opportunities.”
Florida also asks the bigger question of why the best and brightest are not thinking about running in municipal politics in some cities.
A while back, at a dinner party, a friend who occupies a vaunted position in Toronto’s entertainment industry asked me: why is it that Toronto can’t attract the best and brightest to local office? World-class global cities face thorny problems that require top-flight leadership. In Boris Johnson, London has a media-savvy, Oxford-educated conservative mayor who cares deeply about the quality and diversity of his city. Rahm Emanuel in Chicago is an immensely experienced, extraordinarily capable former U.S. congressman and chief of staff to Barack Obama who is governing effectively from the left of the political spectrum. In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire businessman, is a pragmatic moderate who calls on the best minds from all sectors and strata. Even Newark, the city of my birth, one of the most economically disadvantaged cities in America, now has the dynamic Cory Booker, a Stanford grad and Rhodes scholar with a law degree from Yale University, as its mayor. Here in Canada, Vancouver has Gregor Robertson, a former organic farmer and businessman who’s delivering on a green agenda and actively addressing homelessness, public health and affordable housing. And Calgary—to which Torontonians love to feel superior—has in Mayor Naheed Nenshi a young, Harvard-educated Muslim who’s intent on reforming council and growing his prosperous city in a fair and sustainable way.
While other cities are attracting effective mayors from across the political spectrum, our mayor has become a symbol of Toronto’s plight. Yet that plight is not of his making. Municipal governments across Canada have limited powers. Times are lean, which leads to shrill debate about how best to achieve these goals. Battles about bike lanes and library hours and plastic bags fill the daily media, but they distract us from the reality that the city’s future is being shaped by global forces we ignore at our peril.
Of course he ignores, that many did run but could not beat Ford but he does get around to the answer.
To start, Toronto requires the rudimentary governance tools needed to chart its future course. It makes little sense that this nation’s largest city can’t govern itself and plan its future. The mayors of U.S. cities have considerably more power, which is one reason the Bloombergs and Emanuels are attracted to the job. The political theorist Benjamin Barber has charted the highly innovative, pragmatic solutions on everything from fighting crime and improving schools to economic growth and climate change developed by this new breed of mayoral talent, and argues that much of economic and social life would be better “if mayors ruled the world.” Canada’s mayors cannot even rule their own cities.
Over the years, the federal government and provinces have downloaded many costs and obligations to the cities, but little authority. As the philanthropist and Maytree Foundation chair Alan Broadbent has pointed out, Canada’s cities essentially “rely on the kindness of strangers,” notably the provincial and federal governments. This, he suggests, leaves cities with essentially no control over their destinies. Canada’s cities need to become more like provinces—with real power and real revenue to solve their problems and build their economies.
Toronto has a wealth of city builders and city-building organizations. What it needs is more effective leadership vehicles that can braid their myriad efforts together as a real force for change. Richard Daley Jr., the Democratic mayor who spearheaded Chicago’s global rise for more than two decades, told me recently that the key to much of the success he had was progressive business leadership. In Chicago, that type of leadership goes back more than a century. The 1909 Burnham Plan, which envisioned a revitalized city centre, was supported by the Commercial Club of Chicago, a group of businessmen who responded to the need to make improvements to their fast-growing city. Today, a group of private sector leaders called World Business Chicago, whose mission is to build a “global economic powerhouse,” is focused on attracting new corporations to the city.
He also talks about the need for regional planning
One illustrative example comes from Silicon Valley. Not too long ago, this area south of San Francisco had little long-term strategy or vision, just a welter of competitive entrepreneurs intent on developing the next big thing. After the recession in the early 1990s, the entrepreneurs came together to form an organization called Joint Venture: Silicon Valley. As its name implies, it was formed as an inclusive network of business, political, labour and civic leaders, and organizations from multiple cities and jurisdictions—a stark contrast to the top-down organizations and old boys’ clubs found in older cities. It based its deliberation on data-driven analyses of the local economy, measuring variables that shape the region’s prosperity. Armed with such facts, and backed by many of the major institutions and players in Silicon Valley, Joint Venture became a highly effective agent of change, identifying key issues the region faced, and bringing state and federal attention to problems and opportunities it identified. It focuses on issues like unaffordable housing, transit, growing inequality and a burgeoning class divide. Sound familiar?
Toronto needs to act in harmony as one region, not a city versus its suburbs. Joint economic development would enable municipalities to grow together. It makes no sense for separate towns to compete for businesses that are going to locate in a shared region. Daley organized the mayors of greater Chicago’s municipalities and would actively help them land new business prospects rather than compete against them. By working together as a single region, we can stretch our boundaries, leveraging the broader capabilities that can enable greater Toronto to compete with much larger cities around the world.
There is a path to greater prosperity in Saskatoon but we just don’t want to take it. Instead we hang on the mantra of lower and lower spending and taxes. We are the Walmart of North American cities.
Look at what Detroit Economic Growth Corporation has done for downtown Detroit and I again have to wonder why we are not telling this story about Saskatoon?
Why do bike lanes proposals create such reaction? From Wall Street Journal editorial writers to hundreds of Point Grey homeowners, the battles over bicycles have created unprecedented levels of passion. A ‘First-World’ problem, to be sure, but clearly something is going on – and it’s about more than just bicycles.
It is, perhaps, a signal of a change in our way of life that some – in particular, aging boomers – see as a threat.
We have spent most of the last century building car-dominant urban regions. Every stage of the transportation network was designed to lead, without congestion, to a garage in every home or a parking space near every business and destination.
To ensure smoothness in the vehicle flow meant, for safety reasons, keeping other modes like bicycles off the vehicle rights-of-way. The result: almost everyone drives, almost everywhere, for almost everything. And because driving is so prevalent in the absence of alternatives, it follows that drivers deserve the greatest recognition – and the budget allocations which follow.
And they have.
So when the assumption of car-dominance is threatened – particularly if it looks like it might cause inconvenience for drivers – it feels for many that there is something inherently wrong with this, that the natural order of things has been disrupted. Arguments are then assembled to make the world right – even if it means turning it upside down: By encouraging cycling, we increase pollution. By encouraging healthy activity, we increase accidents. By making the city a better place, we make it worse.
The conclusion: No intervention should be made where it might add to congestion. Those plans that put walking and cycling first are therefore meaningless, and only tolerated when they have no impact on motor-vehicle flow. Anything else is declared a ‘war on the car’ and used to divide the electorate for political advantage. Hence the ginned-up passion, often media-amplified, over these issues.
But here’s the irony: Bike lanes and pedestrian priorities don’t create congestion no matter how often it’s predicted (and it’s been happening since the 1970s in Vancouver). We’ve been reallocating road space, introducing traffic calming, closing off blocks, reducing parking, and yes, adding more bike lanes – and what happens? Traffic quickly adjusts, and over time driving diminishes, even as the number of trips grows.
Traffic volumes into downtown Vancouver, for instance, are now down to 1965 levels, even though population, jobs and tourism have roughly doubled – the result of better transit, changing work and residential patterns and, yes, more walking and cycling. In the case of the Point Grey corridor, the shift of vehicles to other arterials will only return them to levels previously experienced, and will likely drop from there if recent trends continue.
So why the anxiety? Is it because those who are car-dependent fear someone might force them out of their cars, make them feel guilty for their habits, or above all, inconvenience them for the sake of those who have traditionally been of lower status or who, more annoyingly, flaunt their fitness and the traffic laws with impunity and who, don’t in the minds of vehicle owners, pay their way?
Yes, the number one video by the City of Saskatoon is not about how awesome Saskatoon is, it is about the worst part of Saskatoon and how we don’t remove snow from residential streets. Well done Saskatoon. Of course SREDA has created Living Saskatoon but take a look at the videos, oh wait, there are none. Just text, one photo, and some links. It is like we aren’t even trying.
In Edmonton’s white paper on how to build a more prosperous city, taxes were important but even more important was the creating and the sharing of the Edmonton brand to attract top people and businesses to Edmonton. Calgary’s Mayor Nenshi talks about the same thing and the need to attract top talent to Calgary and they will create more jobs and wealth. It was actually something that Regina’s Pat Fiacco did quite well for them. While Saskatoon’s video about snow removal talks about how hard it is to live here, Edmonton is talking about how it makes them stronger and more competitive.
Saskatoon on the other hand hasn’t quite got it yet. We still think that if there are jobs, people will come but there are jobs in Alberta, Manitoba, and British Columbia as well. People are making money in Regina, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw and yes, that is the competition.
Saskatoon is home to Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (who is having a bad day today but they’ll bounce back), Cameco (bad last couple of quarters) and we hope they bounce back, BHP Billiton’s Canadian head office, a vibrant downtown, and a lot of outside investment by developers like Lefevbre & Company (you have to look at their website right now, don’t worry, I’ll wait), and success stories that are home grown. You can make money in Saskatoon and have a great quality of life.
Of course we need to start to realize that a) we need to compete with other cities and b) we can compete with other cities (and win). That being said, we need to put on a better first impression than a video about snow removal.
Of course here is one of Regina’s efforts.
Maybe no video is better than that video.
And is Calgary’s branding for why you need to be there. Here is some of the videos from last year.
These are all part of the Be Part of the Energy campaign that Calgary is running.
So Detroit isn’t the only place with a compelling story. Take a look at this video about why you should move and dream in Edmonton.
Here is Mayor Stephen Mandel making the argument to invest in Edmonton
And now Paul Douglas, the CEO of PCL explains why they work and live in Edmonton.
Of course a video on how awesome the University of Alberta is and how it will make your business money.
Lowe Campbell Ewald is moving 600 people to Detroit to be a part of the rebirth of the city and I love the video they announce it with. After you watch the video, I want to know why more cities don’t do stuff like this. Where is the video making the pitch for Saskatoon and being part of the boom and still shaping the city while you can?
The city’s parklets guidebook [PDF], authored by Chasan and released in February, reads kind of revolutionary, at least so far as city infrastructure goes. With explicit goals of encouraging non-motorized transportation, eco-friendly design, and reshaping neighborhood interaction, these teeny parklets pack a big political punch.
“In terms of changing the dialog about what the public realm can be, I think it’s been really successful, both with the public and within the city bureaucracy itself,” says Chasan, who has headed up the program for two and a half years. “When you park your car on the street, you’re essentially privatizing a public space. So when you turn it into something for everyone, it becomes a very literal metaphor.”
Even when they take over that private parking spot, parklets still straddle an odd private-public line. Each one is sponsored and bankrolled by a local entity, most often a business, and can cost about $20,000-30,000 — a significant investment for what is truly a public space. Those parklets outside coffee shops and cafes may seem like an extension of the restaurant that ponied up that cash, but they’re really not. The city requires that parklets look and feel public and separate from the sponsoring business.
“Sometimes people get upset if they feel like the parklet feels private, like it doesn’t live up to the civic ideals of the program,” says Chasan. “Like ‘This is supposed to be for everybody and it doesn’t feel like it’s for everybody.’ They should get upset about that if that’s the case.”
One of my favourite places in Saskatoon was the deck at City Perk (I saw “was” because it is under construction) which was owned by City Perk but seemed like a town square in the heart of City Park. Along the thinking, I am always surprised that more churches (who have parking and buildings that are under utilized) don’t do this in urban areas. I have always thought that creating community amenities for the neighbourhood was a great idea whether you are a business or a non-profit. Sadly too many of these spaces are created but behind a locked fence and the opportunity is lost.