Monday, 12 September 2016

Placemaking In Other Places

I've traveled quite a bit for work and for pleasure over the past several months. Below are some of the funnest examples of peacemaking that I've come across.

Benches and bears in Whistler, BC

Basketball hoops in Victoria, BC

Vibrant alleys in Kelowna, BC

Thursday, 26 May 2016


Everyone in Cartown, 
Liked to drive their car a lot
But there was one little boy named Sam
Who most certainly did not

Cartown was a place
That was designed for one mode
So everywhere you looked
There was cars and their were roads

People drove to the stores
And drove to the beach
People drove to their work
And even drove while watching tv

People drove all hours
From sunrise to nighttime
Some liked driving so much
They drove three cars at the same time

The traffic always worsened
And people complained of the stop and go
The solution to that problem
Was always to build more and bigger roads

Gone was the greenspace
Swallowed up by the new lanes
Parks became parkways
High trees became highways

And the Cartownians were always busy
Always rushing to stay on time
People rarely ever paused to say,
Hello, How are you? or Isn’t this nice?

Cartown was so busy
That it lost its sense of place
It was no longer a town
Just one large paved space

Sam had had enough
It was time for a change!
He was going to stop all the cars
By blocking the town’s main highway

So in the darkness of night
He climbed up the biggest hill around
And he pushed a giant boulder towards
The City of Cartown

The rock rolled down the slope
And stopped in the perfect place
Right in the middle
Of the 16 lane highway

The next morning the Cartownians
All rolled out of bed
Jumped in their cars
For another day ahead

But as their engines started moving
All the cars were forced to stop
It wasn’t just bad traffic
It was a total gridlock

People honked, and screamed
And cried out about how they were late
But as long as the rock remained
The gridlock would not abate

It quickly became obvious
That it would take weeks to remove the rock
So one little girl opened her car door
And decided it would be easier to walk

So she got out of the car
And used the transportation of her two feet
And it didn’t take long
Before others followed her lead

Soon everyone left their cars behind
And chose much different modes
Using bicycles and roller-skates 
Wagons and wheel barrows

There were stilts, and unicycles
And cross-country skis
One man even built a bicycle
Out of pepperoni and cheese

As the weeks passed by
Everyone forgot about their cars
It was quieter, and greener
And at night you could actually see the stars

And Sam saw something
He hadn’t seen in a long while
He saw people pass by each other
Say hello, and then smile

It seemed everyone was happier
From ages one to one-hundred and three
Cause the people were moving around
The way nature intended them to be

But then a bulldozer finally arrived
That was big enough to remove the rock
Everyone cheered out loud
And back to their cars they flocked

But just as the bulldozer
Was about to push the boulder out of the way
Sam climbed up to the top of the rock
Cause he had something to say

He said, “Being a great place
Isn’t about driving quickly from A to B.
This rock isn’t a wall
It’s the cornerstone of our happy community”

Everyone paused
They all couldn’t help but to agree
A place that was built for cars
Was a place where they no longer wanted to be

So they chose to leave the rock
On the highway it remains perfectly still
And from that day forward
Cartown became known as Happyville

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Five Books For Planners, That Aren't About Planning

There are a lot of great books about city and urban planning out there, and I highly recommend you read as many as you can. However, an old mentor of mine once suggested that to avoid overdosing on planning literature, I should read books using the following cycle:

  • Read a planning related book
  • Read a non-planning related non-fiction book (e.g. a biography)
  • Read a fiction book (e.g. a Ken Follett book)
  • Repeat

Below is a list of my top five favourite non-planning related books that provide great insight to the planning profession.

1. The Social Animal by David Brooks
A major part of any planning profession is to better understand why humans do what they do. Through a great storytelling method, this book tries to make sense of the craziness of human behaviour. Witty and sharp, this book tells the story of two individuals over the course of their lifetime and exposes the power of our conscious and unconscious minds. The book provokes a lot of good discussion about how we make decisions, our hidden biases and the role of social interaction. Being a good planner is about understanding human behaviour, and this book is a great starting point.

2. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
The author of this book won a Nobel Prize for economics. Therefore, you will feel instantly smarter the moment you hold this book in your hands. And then once you start actually reading the words, you'll discover a detailed, articulate and easily digestible book on behavioural economics. In a nutshell, the book summarizes the two systems that drive the way we think and make choices: System One is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System Two is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Examining how both systems function, the author exposes the dynamic processes involved with our thoughts and choices. As it relates to the planning field, this book offers a fantastic perspective on the nature of why people react the way they do to proposed changes (see: NIMBYism).

3. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard P. Feynman
A former planning colleague of mine recommended this book to me. I'm glad she did. The book is a collection of the famous physicist's best anecdotes which range from the development of the nuclear bomb to his days as a painter. The book is loaded with reflective-pause-inducing wisdom and his passion for life is contagious. Perhaps the most important takeaway though is his constant curiosity and passion for the truth. Never stop exploring and don't ever be afraid to ask "Why?".

4. On Writing Well by William Zinsser
One of the most important skills that any planner can have is the ability to write words good. The author of On Writing Well guides you through the process of writing better and finding simplicity, clarity and humanity using your own voice and writing style. You write better good fast.

5. The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
In the same way that a child sees an empty cardboard box as a spaceship or a house, a city planner must also be able to see a street as an empty canvas for creativity. If you're struggling to find those creative juices, then Calvin and Hobbes is the quintessential story to inspire anyone to think with imagination and creativity again. Try not to always sees things as they are, see things as your five-year old self would see them.

What about you, are there any books you recommend?

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The ABC's of the Planning Profession

A is for Action
What a good plan always takes
B is for Bicycle
Turning sharrows to separated lanes

C is for Car Share
Using our stuff more sustainably 
D is for Density
A great tool, when done gently

E is for Equity
Making partnerships, not cliques
F is for Facilitate
A fancy word for letting people speak

G is for Greenspace
Go outside and play
H is for Happy
How cities should feel everyday

I is for Inquire
When something doesn't seem right
J is for Jane Jacobs
Who knew when it was time to fight

K is for Knowledge
The more you listen, the more you know
L is for Locals
Talk to them for the real down-low

M is for Maps
Bring out your crayons and felt pens
N is for Neighbourhoods
Where strangers can become friends

O is for Open
For businesses made locally
P is for Placemaking
Making spaces people don't want to leave

Q is for Questions
Like, Why Does It Always Have To Be This Way?
R is for Rezoning
Get comfortable with constant change

S is for Sidewalks
The backbone of "A to B"
T is for Transit
The 40 foot limousine

U is for User
Always know who you're working for
V is for Venn
Diagrams tell people so much more

W is for Work
Good things never come with ease
X is for X-Walk
Connecting people with where they want to be

Y is for Yesterday
Always learning from the past
Z is for Zero
A Vision that will make our future last

(Inspiration for this came seeing this and reading this)

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Imagine If We Built Our Communities Like We Build Christmas Villages?

It's that time of year again when people around the world become 'amateur city planners' and design their own miniature Christmas/Winter Villages (Welcome, to Mattland). We meticulously arrange the buildings, activity centres, transportation systems and people in just the right way to create a place where we think people would want to stick around. We're placemaking.

So why is it that when we build our own communities, we don't apply the same values?
  • Would you build a Village with lots of parking lots and busy streets?
  • Would you build a Village where it is unsafe for people to walk outside?
  • Would you build a Village with walls?
  • Would you build a Village that is car-centric with limited transit and bicycle options?
  • Would you build a Village without any local shopping and restaurants?

Of course you wouldn't. Your Village is a place where people feel happy and safe. A place where people can be together.

So for 2016, before we make any decisions that impact our communities, perhaps we should first ask ourselves: Is this something we would include in our own Christmas/Winter Village?

Merry Christmas from the Trainboat Family! And thanks to all those people out there who are working their tails off to make our world a better place!