Back to basics

As I was freezing my ass off in our new modern bus shelters yesterday, I realized that its time to bring the blog back to the local.

First, I note that “modern” is defined as not having doors, no insulation, frozen loogies on the glass, none of that pesky insulation at ground level to prevent feet frostbite, loads of snow in the shelter and on the seats, and large holes at the top of the shelter for ease of wind penetration. I hesitate to swear on the blog, but these shelters can only be described as shit. Please, please tell me that this is some interim stage and that they will all have doors and go down to the ground. God help us.

The second thing that brought me back to Winnipeg is the absolutely unbelievable plan to spend $18.5 million to help IKEA undercut the local furniture shops while refusing to spend $2 million on safer active transportation. We apparently have endless funds for box stores, car transportation, and sprawl, but nothing for people who want to live healthy lives without getting run over. Livible communities be damned! We’ve got easy to assemble furniture!

Nicolas Hirst does a good job of discussing these contradictions (though he is pro-IKEA). He also ties in the Human Rights Museum and the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) rejection of 331 apartments in a city desperate for more rental units. In general, I agree with Hirst in that we have little plan:

“If I were IKEA, I would want to see the city becoming a younger, smarter place. I would see the human rights museum as a huge step. But I would wonder at the lack of vision at city hall. Young people need apartments to live in, and cheap ways of getting around the city. When is council going to get it?”

Bang on. The problem is in long-term planning. We seem to want to make small changes, patch the potholes, instead of considering the bigger picture. Our imagination is at fault.

Finally, I would like to announce the formation of IMBY. As I write this in my Donald Street apartment, I’m looking out the window at hundreds of surface parking lots located at the edge of the soon-to-be complete Sky-Walk system. Hmm…if 331 apartments are to be built, why not here on Donald and hooked up to the system? In summer, spring, and fall, these “hip youngsters” would populate the downtown and walk to the Forks, baseball stadium, Exchange, and Osborne Village; during the coldest days of winter, they would find themselves hooked up indoors to thousands of jobs, hundreds of shops, the arena, the Millenium library, Portage Place, etc.; and all-year round they would have fast bus connections to the entire city. Anyone have $2,000,000 to give me to buy a couple of those surface lots?

UPDATE: Looks like I’m late to the shelter bashing show. From Jimmycottom, and Progressive Winnipeg.


20 responses to “Back to basics

  1. In defense of the bus shelters, they aren’t meant for long term habitation. If the buses ran on time, there is no reason for a person to spend more than 4 or 5 minutes in one of these glass shacks.

  2. Jonathan: I spent 35 minutes in the shelter because the cold caused buses not to run. This is the nature of the city in which we live. My ankles were unhappy.

  3. A shift toward downtown won’t happen properly until we push all the casual drug users out of the Village and the downtown, and encourage an attitude of young professionalism in those areas. I am one of the young people who works in a building with Graham skywalk access and I live in Osborne Village, but the two biggest issues of my current living situation are buses running poorly and the party culture of the Village causing my apartment hallways to reek of marijuana smoke.

    I think we’d need to reform Winnipeg’s downtown youth culture before we saw any improvements, whether they have someplace to live or not.

  4. Hi Jamie,

    Welcome to the Don Street Blog!

    Agreed RE drugs. If we are going to have a more livable community, we need to learn to live together. Alcohol is the worst example. Our youth culture in general (not just downtown) values drinking for the purpose of getting completely wasted – and then loves to brag about losing consciousness and vomitting while on cell phones in line at the grocery store. We’ve lost sight of the fact that the way you act, dress, and speak affects the way that people perceive who you are and how you value yourself and your environment.

    Regardless of that point, though, unless we have housing for these young professionals here in the downtown, we won’t have young professionals moving in to the neighborhood. Putting those 331 apartments in my back yard would also go a long way towards changing the downtown culture as well. Chicken and egg problem.

  5. Stop complaining, BUY A CAR already.

  6. Is that a joke, Sigh?

  7. Sigh, while I agree that Winnipeg’s horrendous city planning and transit planning has caused owning a car to be almost a necessity here, living a smaller, less exorbitant life is a much better move for our city and our environment. Taller apartments, bike paths, better recycling programs, community composting, better transit, and waste-not-want-not encouragement is how we really should be approaching the future of Winnipeg.

    We already made the mistake of building a city on some of the most fertile land in the Prairies. The least we could do is try to build up rather than out for once, and create systems that make that possible.

  8. Exactly, Jamie. It’s absolutely unbelievable that you would build large houses that sprawl over great distances in a climate like ours. The only logical modern city in this cold clime would see smaller homes, density, and quality high-speed and warm public transportation.

    That, or we find an alternative to oil to run the car fleet for cheap forever. But, that’s just planning in a bubble.

  9. Yayayahhhh, we all know about that , We’ve heard it blah blah blah before. BUT BUT BUT , its not happening like a subway won’t happen. Like taking over the 225 Acres, getting rails out of the City and moving the University downtown. ( Which in itself is about the greenest and most efficient move you can make ).


  10. Donald, pleease, this City loves homes like those on mcReary on 5 acre parcels. You gotta see them, about 15 lonely soldiers shuddering in the cold.

    And soon , they will be clamoring to get hooked up to the City’s systems.

  11. Actually Donald, electric vehicles in the next 20 years will make it possible. i just hope its convenient enough we can scrap this Transit issue forever.

  12. Well, Sigh, I’m not so sure about the electric car. I’ve seen little evidence that we can generate enough energy in North America to keep that system going. If you can point to the study that says that these alternative energy proposals will generate enough electricity to make that system viable for generations to come, I’d love to see it.

    And on the Transit issue, it’s not going to go away so long as you have people interested in different ways of living. In the end, I wouldn’t want to impose my way of life on others, but I also won’t have the suburban way of life imposed on me. I choose not to buy a car (though I would buy into that car-share) and to use public transportation and my bike. For me, its a much healthier, cheaper, convenient, and more sustainable way of living. Not for everyone. But, just right for me. And – to cite Richard Florida via Hirst’s piece – what the city needs is to attract young professionals who can choose to live anywhere they want. My wife is finishing her thesis this month and after that we could choose to live anywhere. We like it here for some reasons but think things could also improve. Where should we choose to live? What factors affect our decision? How many other young professionals have come/stayed/left and for what reasons? If we started asking and answering those questions, we might look at the long-term city plans differently.

  13. The questions and answers are all around you Donald. You aren’t the first young person to ask. They were there in the 50’s 60’s 70’s 80’s and 90’s.

    But, this is what you get. The ideas expressed by todays generation aren’t new. We are years behind and judging by the last 10 years, we won’t change going forward.

    So, perhaps, moving would be a good idea for young people searching for these systems. If thats what they want. Or, BUY a Car.

  14. We’ve been repeating the same conversations for millenia, Sigh. It’s all in good fun.

    As for the answers being all around me, I have been looking for an answer to the question of generating sufficient energy to run electric cars throughout North America and have seen nothing yet that says this is feasible.

    As for moving: Winnipeg may be stuck with me for some time. We’ll see. Maybe I can live here and live here the way I want. Maybe not. We’ll see.

  15. People in the 50s and 60s enjoyed a much better Transit system than we do today.

    Transit has not changed since that time. This means that despite population growth and increased sprawl, we have only added a few more busses and changed bus routes, for the worse. Transit has gone from being a viable transportation option to being nearly useless, only because of negligence and lack of vision or foresight.

    I don’t buy the argument that “busses should run on time, then you don’t need to stand in a shelter.”

    Think briefly of the following situation: imagine the best, most efficient, exciting and functional version of Winnipeg Transit as you possibly can. If you can manage to do that, then you will see that, despite being the best and most efficient, you will still have to wait for a bus in Winnipeg. Our population is simply too small and too spread out to have buses running everywhere, across the whole city, every route, every 4 minutes.

    Thus by the nature of our city, you will have to wait, even if we had a great Transit system. That, and as you mentioned Mike, it’s a fact that it just gets so bloody cold here that busses will break down. It snows here, buses will run late. It’s icy buses will run late. There is no escaping this reality of a city that happens to experience an extreme version of winter for 2 months of the year.

    And so the LEAST we can do, is make a bus shelter that, well, keeps us sheltered.

  16. Maybe we could buil;d swanky bus shelters if we weren’t going to spend 500 Million getting a BRT to the University.

    Think about it. Flip it around and perhaps you’ll understand the surgery thats required. Ignoring it just makes the costs go up and the system less efficient.

  17. Sufficient energy, we have ample amounts and we have technology that can produce more then we need. But, its tough choices and I’m not sure the will is there.

    Yes, I’m talking Nuclear reactors. Alos, charging stations by hydro systems, where you capture 100% of the energy and store it, but you’ll have to transport it to urban centres via rail.

    Again, the answer may not be available to you at this moment, but what you can readily see is the escalation of technology and that is the good news. It will take less time to achieve the breakthroughs. We just have to have the guts to go for it and not fall apart ( like we did after 3 mile island ) and stick our heads in the sand.

  18. Nuclear does seem very appealing to me. But, Are all the changes you suggest going to produce enough kilowatt hours to run the interstate?]

    And, Sigh, your shelter-BRT dilemma is a false dichotomy. We are already spending the money on new shelters and I wonder how much more they would have cost if they went down to the ground.

  19. Pingback: Plan Winnipeg II « Don Street Blog

  20. How much more, say triple what they are worth now. But that would be a very comfortable unit and everywwhere, that would still leave us about 450 Million plus to spend on the existing system.

    I await the hip bloggers to show me this City’s plan for the next 25 years. hurry up, the irreversable damage is going on as we speak

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