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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

World Wide Wednesday: Rooftop farming, smart density and French car-sharing

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Each week we will be focusing on blogs from around the world dealing specifically with urban environments. We’ll be on the lookout for websites outside the country that approach themes related to urban experiences and issues in Toronto.

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• Vancouver’s new rapid transit train The Canada Line officially opened last Monday, drawing both praise and criticism.  Operating from downtown Vancouver and the airport, the route was flooded with 30,000 passengers who took advantage of the opening day fare-free promotion.

• Website Babelgum has put out six short episodes describing some new and exciting uses of space that they have lumped into the category of New Urbanism.  They include a short look at dumpster pools, urban mini-golf and rooftop farming in Brooklyn, an opera in a German subway station, water-based living aboard a waterpod and the transformation of a vacant lot into a tent city in NYC.

The Paperhouse, a beautiful new bronze-clad kiosk, can now be seen on the streets of London, England. The chesnut-like structure has a steel and plywood frame which is bolted to the ground.

• Dumpster diving not your cup of tea? How about the polluted East River in the Bronx, where a giant moored barge with a half-olympic sized public pool can be found? The pool was towed from the Brooklyn bridge to the Bronx, an area of NYC lacking in public recreational facilities.

• Residents in Sarnia, Ontario showed a US prototype surveillance balloon some skin as it flew over the border city.  At least 100 people turned up to give the balloon a face-full of Ontario ass to express their displeasure with the incursion of a US company on their privacy.

• How do you define “the right type of density?”  That is the question Kaid Benfield, the director of the Smart Growth Program in Washington D.C. tackles in his essay on different kinds of density and the challenge of getting smart density implemented.

• Far from bashing ‘cold’ Torontonians, this Indian billboard may one day save lives. In Mumbai, a branded dingy has been strung up to a billboard just before the start of flood season along with the caption ‘In case of emergency cut rope.’

• Paris is making waves in urban transportation policy as they roll out plans to begin Autolib, the world’s first city-run car sharing program.  The program will be operated by a public-private partnership and calls for 4000 electric vehicles and 1,400 rental and recharging stations distributed in and around Paris.

Photo by Stewart Butterfield



  1. ….the train is efficient and greener and cleaner than what the Ontario government wants for our airport link. Vancouver 2009 plan. Ontario 1909 plan. Why ?

  2. The Canada Line Opening day figure was closer to 85,000

  3. Gasoline cars are bad, electric cars are good. But pollution at the source (e.g.: coal mines) versus pollution at the tailpipe is pollution, no? What about the environmental costs of producing electricity?

  4. Nobody has ever said that generating electricity doesn’t have a footprint. The footprint for electric trains overall though is less than diesel trains. Sadly diesel pollution is far more toxic than car pollution and unless the government starts reducing the number of lanes on the 401 new cars will also take the place of people taking new train transit. One way or another we need more public transit and it needs to be powered. All in all electric power is the greener choice and a choice that will save money for other other green initiatives.

  5. the dumpster pool is a great idea, a neat concept for fast public parks in vacant lots. EXCEPT is a private pool party. so I didn’t bother with the rest of the videos. hope I left too early.

  6. More like Vancouver 1979 plan, since light rail or subway to the airport is a pretty old idea at this point. A true 2009 plan would be TGV, maglev or other sleek high-speed link (see Europe, Asia). I don’t really care what mode is used at YYZ though; I would take anything with a steel wheel at this point.

    The brutal fact is that in the decade that Toronto has screwed around not building an airport link, cities as diverse as New York, Seattle, Portland, Providence, San Fransisco, Dallas, Minneapolis, Phoenix and now Vancouver have all added light rail or heavy rail airport links. Miami, not exactly a suave transit town, opens its rail and subway link in 2011. Way to fall-behind-everyone-else, Centre of the Universe. The poverty, incompetence and stupidity of Toronto and the province when it comes to airport mass transit is mind-boggling.

  7. Amen.

    It’s mainly greed though, over incompetence, etc. Killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

  8. @scottd – is the Canada Line train FRA Compliant? Do tell.

    (If the answer is no, it can’t run on the mainline except when other trains are barred from it, like the O-Train)