Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Transit Oriented Business Idea

Back at the "Leading the Way Youth Summit" in Edmonton, all of the groups were given the task of presenting an idea to help revolutionize various aspects of transit.

My group had decided to pursue the topic of greening transit.  As a result we came up with the idea of crowd sourced deals oriented to those businesses that choose to locate in a TOD (Transit oriented development).  Similar to the deal of the day promotions through Living Social, Groupon,  transit would advertise a daily deal though an agreement with businesses located in a TOD. 

This would be a huge boon for businesses as transit users are all on foot and can easily swing in your store to buy your daily deal coffee.  No hassle with providing your customers with parking on your dime.  Businesses would see an upswing of transactions, and they get free advertisement through a public body that is used by 100,000 people daily.

This sort of arrangement would also benefit cities greatly as this deal would only apply to businesses within 800 meters (10 minutes walking distance) of a major transit station.   This would be a great encouragement for TOD's as all of your businesses are already located within your TOD.  People would want to live by their amenities and thus would be more likely to elect to live in a TOD, and utilize the conveniently located transit to go about their daily lives.

Such an arrangement would give municipalities the tool to help develop TOD's, and as a result citizens are living in concentrated areas cities do not have to spend tax dollars wastefully on inefficient sprawl.

Climate Action Requires a Thought

Governments around the world are not taking a strong enough stance to curtail climate change.  Governments will only take strong action to prevent climate change if their people are demanding action.  If people were to lend a thought for climate change once a day, and if news outlets generate the proportionate attention for possibly one of the greatest threats humanity faces in this age, governments would be quicker to act on climate change.

It is human nature deal best with the now, and it hard to give credence to faceless enemy a few years away.  This can be especially true in these days of economic hardships, where you are overburdened with more work with fewer resources while you worry about making your bills daily.  You may have your children's mouths to worry about feeding.

It will be inevitable that if we continue our current path that climate will soon be at the very forefronts of our thoughts.  Extreme weather events will continue to increase, and with that peoples homes destroyed, crops destroyed and people displaced.  As a result food prices will rise, it has been shown that as food prices rise so does people's frustration.  The revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and the remaining Arab spring nations can all be linked to a preceding rise in food prices. 

It is inevitable that humans will rise up strong and hard against the enemy of climate change.  However we can help speed this up by giving Climate a thought but once a day, and help avoid the pains that will come by delaying action.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Urban Waste Management

It doesn't matter what city you are in you will likely see litter strewn across your urban landscape.  Some cities may be in better shape than others, this may be due to better due diligence and budgets for waste management. 

This may include procedures to ensure that civic employees check waste receptacles regularly and change out full waste receptacles or replace ripped bags.  This helps as the waste receptacles in a cities core can fill up quickly, and once full people will still add waste on top.  This waste is easy picking for a gust of wind which will spread the contained mess.  Which scenario do you think will take more effort and cost more money; changing out all the waste in one garbage bag or paying someone to clean the waste scattered across the city?  Why do more work when your citizens are willing to do the majority of the work themselves by placing the waste into the correct receptacle.

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On that note another way for cities to help manage their waste is to choose the appropriate waste receptacles.  As an example of a poorly chosen waste receptacle we shall turn to the minimalistic waste receptacles at the outdoor LRT station platforms in downtown Calgary.  Quite often due to podium-less design of downtown Calgary's towers, huge wind tunnels are created.  These wind tunnels pass by the garbage receptacles and invert the contents onto the streets.  I realize the minimalism of these receptacles is to help mitigate terrorist threats as you can see if any bomb has been placed in the transparent garbage bag, however the proper receptacle should be chosen to eliminate this avoidable occurrence.  These garbage bags should at the very least be weighted down.

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Most waste receptacles are built with an opening on the top for waste disposal, however this also generates the unwanted behavior of people digging through the contents.  This leads the way for those less fortunate to start digging through them for income earning drink bottles.  One way to avoid this is to again choose the proper receptacle.  The proper receptacle would close off the waste contents to outside interaction by using a hinged opening with a double wall similar to those on a vending machine opening that helps prevent theft.  Such receptacles have already been installed in Cochrane. 

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The ultimate way to ensure that the garbage stays off your streets would be for your city to install a suction powered garbage line tied into the garbage receptacles similar to those already installed in places like Sweden, and the one proposed for the City Centre Airport development in Edmonton.  These lines would be powered by powerful vacuums and would act similar to sewage lines instantly transporting your waste to the waste processing facility.  This sort of system would ensure that any waste that you place in a trash receptacle is instantly taken to the waste facility and is guaranteed to be kept of your street.  Another bonus of such a system is that you do not have large unappealing garbage trucks driving around collected garbage.  Such a system would see significant reductions in cost due to less wear on your city streets, less waste clean-up, and fuel and maintenance for garbage pick-up trucks.

Friday, August 19, 2011

New Coal 500MW Coal Plant in Alberta

The AUC has recently approved a new 500 MW coal plant at the H.R. Milner plant for Maxim Power.  That is bad enough as it is, but when you add on the fact that the AUC specifically fast tracked the approval process in order guarantee exemption from new Federal  coal plant emissions regulations.  The new federal regulations will exempt any new power plant from the emissions standards as long as it is commissioned before July 2015. 

Its fine that we need power and that some of it will have to come from dirty sources for now, however at least make them follow the regulations.  Lets not give Maxim Power free reign to be exempt from protecting regulations for the average joe.  These regulations ensure that everyone has at least some form of protection against dirty air.  These regulations are at least a step in the right direction, and Alberta cannot even force a company to adhere to them.  What for?  For a lousy few bucks, what about the millions of dollars of money that will have to be spent on medical care for those living and breathing the poor air quality. 

This new regulation will not even apply to Ontario, you want to know why?  Ontario is shutting down all of their coal plants.  So what does Alberta do?  We do business as usual and pander to the dirty industry billionaires seeking billions more. This is very disappointing news, please get the word out.  Its time that we start moving forward and start investing in renewable energies and the health of Albertans.

An element of fun in Transit Design

One of the downfalls with public transit can come with the fact that most transit agencies are government owned.  We all know that governments are burdened with the regulations and responsibility to spend their tax payers and thus voters dollars wisely.  On top of all of this there is a vocal portion of our society that decries any or all tax dollars not spent on the bare minimum of road maintenance or snow clearing, public art and infrastructure for sustainable modes of transportation are not worthy investments.  Transit therefore is most designed with a purely utilitarian purpose.

All humans need some form of fun or dynamics to help us trudge through our day.  Our city planners should be given a bit more free reign to think outside the box for transit solutions. Our transit systems could be vastly improved we would dedicate a little bit more energy towards designing systems that incorporate a bit of fun but still meet all of the necessary safety and regulatory needs.

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This sort of thinking has already taken root at a station in the Netherlands.  This station has a slide built to the side of access stairwells.  This is a great idea as who doesn't secretly wish to relive our days as a child.  Not only that but it allows you to get to the trains faster, this is much faster than taking the stairs.

When I was in Mexico, musicians were allowed to board the buses and play a quick ditty on their guitar.  Music is always a great way lift someones spirits, and more provisions should be made to allow musicians on public transit.  You could enforce rules that would only allow a musician to play for a short period of time in non-peak hours.

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Transit stations should also be designed with creative or interactive features, such as this piano stairwell in Stockholm.  These stairs work as a real piano, and they found that people would actually prefer to take the stairs as opposed to the escalator right next to it. 

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A great way to enliven our transit systems to allocate more space for art, such as these legs at Southgate station in Edmonton.  City planners should not only make accommodations for official public art but for grass root public art spaces as well.  This could be a wall that a different artist is allowed to adorn each month.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Business Case for a Cargo Bike

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Over at Treehugger  they have an article about a brewery in Colorado that uses a cargo bike to transport their kegs to client.  This is a fantastic idea that many businesses overlook.  North americans vastly underestimate the value of a bicycle.  After an initial albiet small capital investment, there are very little operating costs to run a bicycle.  Bicycles require very little maintenance, and no fuel and can last forever if properly maintained. 

In this case Equinox Brewing had to source a specific design for their bicycle to prevent turbulence to the brothy goodiness contained in the keg.  This is another idea often overlooked by prospective businesses, most people would never think to retrofit a bike to serve a second purpose.  As you can see it can be done, and you can significantly lower business costs.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Water Savings From A Rain Barrel

The water that comes out of your tap required extensive quantities of energy and your tax dollars to clean, and pump.  The water that exits your taps is safe to drink, and should not be used for anything else. 

An inexpensive way to save water is to install a rain barrel under the rain spout from your roof.  I have touched on this before, however I wanted to provide you with some numbers of how much water you could actually save.  The roof of my house is 14m x 10m,  this produces an area of 140m².  Calgary's average rainfall in April is 51.4 mm.  This means that 51.4 mm of rain would fall on the entire area of your roof and down your rainspout.  This means that an April rainfall of 51.4mm would produce 7m³ of rain.  This is equal to 7,000L of water, this is enough water to water a 6 m by 6 m vegetable garden for month.  Or half of your entire backyard lawn.

This amount of water would have cost $7 in your underpriced Canadian system.  A typical rain barrel will run you $80.  However you can find repurposed plastic drums/rain barrels for $40.  Or a plastic 50 gal garbage can costs $20.