Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for June 26th, 2012

Christina de Marco too?

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I have just read a tweet that linked to this news story

Forget the piffle from the always predictable Maureen Enser (and thank goodness she is on her way out too). The list of people who have been “let go” is now definitely an honour roll (Enser just worked out her time, that’s different). I took dismissal at age 55 really hard, but I have to admit that this early retirement kick has – so far – been a blast. I reviewed much of that today with a former co-worker from Translink and we both felt that the last few years away from the job have been a lot more fun for us than the years before that. But on the other hand we do seem to be getting rid of the people who not only have high intelligence, really good experience and relevant education but also a great track record.

They went to Chicago to attract Mike Shiffer. He had the sort of knowledge, competence and experience that had been sadly lacking at the top of  Translink’s planning department. He lasted less than three years.  You cannot say that about the GVRD/Metro Vancouver planning department: they may not have had much in the way of effectiveness or real power, but everybody (who had their head screwed on) acknowledged the intellectual power of the arguments advanced by people like Ken Cameron – and Christina de Marco. I am very proud that we worked closely together, as professional planners, when our political masters were busy tripping over their own shoelaces. She (and Tamim Raad at Translink) deserve the credit for winning the largest federal contribution (apart from the politically necessary but spurious award to Quebec for a bunch of hybrid buses) for the Urban Transportation Showcase Program. That was the thing that got us the Central Valley Greenway and the Main Street transit improvements – among other significant advances in integrated planning. These demonstration projects provided the data that showed that “sustainable transportation” was more than just a catchy phrase.

I just hope that gave her a decent package and that one of our planning schools scoops her up real quick. Such knowledge and experience needs to be passed along.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Terraced housing

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There has been quite a lot of interest here recently about terraced housing – what the real estate agents here call “town homes”. Others have been blogging about the need for these to be sold on a fee simple basis rather than the strata title that is currently used in BC.

Place des Vosges panorama

Place des Vosges, Paris – my photo on flickr

When first thought of, in 1613 by Henri IV, these houses were designed to accommodate courtiers in separate accommodations. There was always a crowd hanging around at the palace – even at bedtime! – so I expect they welcomed the idea of their own front door.

By 1880 the pressing need was – as now – how to accommodate the lower income part of the community. The people who actually did all the work, on which the economy and the state depended, but who could not afford – even on several wage packets in a household, much in the way of housing. The Victorian 1% had even developed a bit of conscience about this, and actually legislated minimum standards like the need for each room to have its own window. The way that local taxes (‘the rates’) were then calculated also meant that the frontage onto the street needed to be minimized. So a very standardized home was produced – most constructed by small independent building firms working from a book of plans. This was the sort of London suburb where I grew up, and is one of the reasons why I am still, to this day somewhat reluctant to embrace the idea that a fee simple row house – or what I knew as a freehold terrace house – is much of an answer to our current shortage of affordable housing.

March 1921: Densely packed housing along Kensal Rise, London
Photograph: English Heritage/PA

Written by Stephen Rees

June 26, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Posted in housing

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