Monthly Archives: January 2008

Vancouver Province column: Those trying to ban drive-throughs haven’t thought the issue through

The Province
Monday, January 28, 2008

It’s open season on fast-food restaurants across Canada.
Recent years have seen a deluge of reports and warnings about the harmful health effects of everything from super-sized cheeseburger lunches to caffeine-laden cappuccinos.

Celebrity chefs never pass up an opportunity to take a swipe at North America’s most popular hamburger stands — and, by extension, the customers who frequent them. And now these establishments are taking the rap for global warming. Continue reading

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Filed under Environment, Food and Dining, Health, Politics, Transportation, Urban Planning, Vancouver Province Columns

The paradox of ethnic enclaves in the city

A recent article in the New York Times — devoted to the hollowing out of that city’s Little Cambodia — underscores a bigger picture at play in the United States and across North America.

New immigrants to North America aren’t necessarily flocking to the inner cities like they used to — and many are in fact bypassing the city cores in favour of suburbia, exurbia, or even smaller communities beyond urban regions. Of course, the Cambodian situation is unique — given the tumultuous recent history that nation has faced… but the trend is worth noting nonetheless.

Have our cities left immigrants behind?

Since the mid-’90s, a growing number of Cambodians have left the city, and the parties are held less often.

Data from the 2000 census shows that the city’s Cambodian population decreased by 31 percent from 1990 to 2000. According to a census analysis by the Hmong Studies Internet Resource Center, the decline occurred as nearly all the country’s other Cambodian communities were expanding.

At the high-water mark of 1990, census figures show, 2,565 Cambodians lived in the city, primarily in the Fordham, University Heights and Bronx Park East sections of the Bronx. Most were refugees who were resettled in New York after fleeing the repressive Khmer Rouge regime, which fell in 1979 and claimed nearly two million lives. According to an analysis of 2005 numbers prepared by the Census Bureau, barely 1,000 Cambodians then remained in the city.

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Filed under Immigration, New York

Japan’s cool trumps L.A’s, apparently…

From food to fashion to music, Los Angeles is seeing a wave of Japanese culture like never before — according to a recent cover story from the L.A. Times.

Southern California is arguably the epicenter of Japanese cool in America, with three major hubs of restaurants, bars and shops in Torrance and Gardena, West L.A. and the Sawtelle corridor, and downtown’s Little Tokyo. And just about everywhere you look, it seems another Famima!! or Beard Papa is springing up.

Are we to expect an influx of sukiyaki restaurants and high-end izakayas that Vancouver is currently enjoying? However, the article doesn’t exactly make Southern California sound like a haven for ramen noodles (cited as being “either a little bit watery or too soy-based”)… yet.

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Filed under Culture, Food and Dining, Japan, Los Angeles

North Americans want high-speed rail

Make no doubt about it: In North America (and indeed globally), rail is hot. One need look no further than Metro Vancouver, and its three new commuter rail lines slated for the next decade, for proof.

High-speed rail, at least in theory, is hotter.

But since the industry’s glory days in Canada and the US, it’s North America that has become the laggard. Asia and Europe have embraced modern rail. And there’s no hint of a anything approaching the Shinkansen adorning the landscape between Los Angeles and New York, or Vancouver and Montreal.

Part of this is a function of culture: North America is still a car culture. But more importantly, it’s a function of geography. The continent is huge, and bullet trains are monumentally expensive to build and maintain.

They require densities that few regions can approach — except for metropolises like Paris or Shanghai. In the case of Japan, a variety of bullet trains serve the Tokyo-Osaka corridor — since the two megacities weigh in with populations of 32 and 19 million, repectively.

But at least people on -this- side of the Pacific, and Atlantic, are talking about it. Ontario and Quebec are once again talking about a fast train running between Toronto and Montreal — and extending as far as Quebec City in the east, and Windsor in the west.

Perhaps more realistically, there is also renewed talk in the state of California about a San Francisco to Los Angeles high-speed railroad. But a combination of environmental and economic factors could make this one achievable, as pointed out by the East Bay Express.

“It’s the perfect storm right now,” said San Francisco Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, citing concern about global warming coupled with the rising cost of gasoline-dependent auto and air travel. As chairwoman of the legislative High-Speed Rail Caucus and one of the project’s two chief legislative advocates, Ma is actively recruiting support. “As I’m going around the state, people are sick and tired of sitting in gridlock and going to the airport two hours ahead of time,” Ma said. “I think voters will pass this overwhelmingly.”

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Filed under Environment, Los Angeles, Montreal, San Francisco, Tokyo, Toronto, Transportation

Vancouver Province column: Turnstiles are needed to turn transit into a better environment for travel

January 14, 2008

Ever since Kevin Falcon announced his desire to install turnstiles at SkyTrain stations across the Lower Mainland, the B.C. transportation minister has been on the receiving end of a predictably hot-headed response from some vocal adversaries.

Falcon’s critics have trashed his proposal, arguing that securing the stations with new gates is a colossal waste of energy and money.

But the detractors should reconsider their tough stance.

It’s time to get tough instead on the freeloaders who think they’re entitled to ride the rails for free, at the expense of taxpayers and fellow riders.

According to TransLink, nearly five per cent of SkyTrain revenues are lost through fare evasion — a number that both Falcon and TransLink chairman Malcolm Brodie think is even higher. Continue reading

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Filed under Hong Kong, Law and Order, Los Angeles, Transportation, Vancouver, Vancouver Province Columns

$14 billion for public transit in British Columbia

This week’s announcement of major funding for rapid transit in British Columbia should put to rest the naysayers who argue that rail technologies such as SkyTrain are an unnecessary luxury. By extending the successful SkyTrain network to the University of British Columbia, and most likely to Metro Vancouver’s northeast and southeast, the province is wisely showing a commitment to a transport system that has proven durable and popular.

The news also underscores something new in Metro Vancouver — long-term thinking about population growth and transportation needs in the region.

Warren Gill, a transportation-studies professor at Simon Fraser University who has focused on transportation policy for more than 30 years, called the program “infrastructure for the ages.”

“It means Vancouver will be a functional city long into the future. People who come to Vancouver will be able to get around in the city just as they would in some of the world’s great cities – New York, London, Chicago,” Prof. Gill said.

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Filed under Academia, British Columbia, Transportation, Urban Planning

The L.A. turnstiles debate

The downtown L.A. blog Angelenic takes an emotional stand in favour of bringing turnstiles to the city’s subway and light rail stations — an issue that has also been debated in Vancouver in recent memory:

Has anyone considered the new passenger gates could bring more to our transit system than financial gain? How about improved safety, order and cleanliness?

An obvious benefit is keeping out the riffraff who sleep on the trains, vandalize the interiors and don’t pay for the ride! As a daily metro customer, I’ve witnessed this first-hand repeatedly over the years. If you doubt me, try taking the Metro Red Line to North Hollywood after 9pm on a weekend. Obviously, turnstiles wouldn’t be a cure-all for these problems, but they will help thwart them.

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Filed under Law and Order, Los Angeles, Transportation