Category Archives: San Francisco

Vancouver Province column: City must address theft, safety issues before peddling bike rental program

September 15, 2008

Peter Ladner, the Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate in the upcoming Vancouver municipal election, has a transportation vision for the Lower Mainland that goes beyond public transit and private vehicles.

Ladner, a long-time cycling advocate, would like to see more commuters getting around by bike.

Last year, the city councillor and former TransLink board member requested a feasibility study on bringing a bike-rental program to Metro Vancouver.

The consultant’s report is now in, and it concludes that some Vancouver neighbourhoods are indeed ready for self-serve bike renting. Continue reading



Filed under Commuting, Cycling, Environment, Green Space, Law and Order, Politics, San Francisco, Transportation, Urban Planning, Vancouver, Vancouver Province Columns

Mercer Consulting: Best cities for… wait for it… quality of living

The cities rankings continues — this one from Mercer Consulting.
It’s a bit more serious-minded that Monocle’s, and geared for those who are uprooting for work.

Some survey highlights:

“European cities dominate the rankings of locations with the best quality of living, according to Mercer’s 2008 Quality of Living survey. Zurich retains its 2007 title as the highest ranked city, followed jointly by Vienna (2), Geneva (2), then Vancouver (4) and Auckland (5).

The highest entry for the United States is Honolulu, appearing at number 28. The cities with the lowest quality of living ranking are Ndjamena (211), Khartoum (212), Brazzaville (213), and Bangui (214). Baghdad, ranking 215, retains its position at the bottom of the table.

The survey also identified those cities with the highest personal safety ranking based on internal stability, effectiveness of law enforcement and relationships with other countries. Luxembourg was top, followed by Bern, Geneva, Helsinki and Zurich, all equally placed at number 2. Chicago, Houston and San Francisco are noted amongst the safest cities in the US, all ranking at 53. Baghdad (215) was the world’s least safe city followed by Kinshasa (214), Karachi (213), Nairobi (212) and Bangui (211).

The rankings are based on a point scoring index, which sees Zurich scoring 108, while Baghdad scores 13.5. Cities are ranked against New York as the base city which has an index score of 100.”

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Filed under Culture, Environment, Green Space, Health, Immigration, Industry, Montreal, New York, Real Estate, San Francisco, Seattle, Sydney, Toronto, Transportation, Urban Planning

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

Osaka: The kitchen of Japan

San Francisco carries a reputation for culinary excellence, but this journalist found an equal, if not superior foodie culture in Osaka, Japan’s second-largest city.

Osaka, like San Francisco, considers itself a food town. Both are port cities open to culinary crosscurrents from all over the world. Both have a large working population who eat out all the time, and both are strongest in mid-priced restaurants and street food.

When I got back to San Francisco, I missed the civility of Osaka, the efficiency of the train system, the impeccable service in hotels and department stores, and the safety of the streets. At home, food suddently tasted too sweet, salty and sour. I realized that I had been eating a mid-range palate of flavors with very little oil and fat, and drinking a wine, sake, whose highest attributes are balance, smoothness and a delicate aroma evocative of pure water. In comparison, Western food and drink felt like a sensual assault.

Osaka: The “kitchen” of Japan

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Filed under Osaka, San Francisco