Fire Hydrant Color Coding

When cities age, so does their infrastructure.
And water mains are often the worst offenders, with massive losses going undetected day to day as cities scramble to keep up with the maintenance, construction and upgrading of their networks.
Ontario is following the practice of many US cities in color coding their fire hydrants to display the available fire flows at that location, something that Fire Chiefs see as only a temporary measure.
Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs

According to fire chiefs and watermain engineers across Ontario, aging underground water pipes could hamper firefighting efforts and put lives at risk.

Leadership – The Role of Local Government

102525303_f9221bca5b_m Local governments have a massive responsibility, they are elected to provide governance over the day to day lives of their neighbors, peers and co-workers.

Broadly, these responsibilities include:

  • Making decisions and setting directions for promoting the social, cultural, environmental and economic well-being of their community. 
  • making and enforcing rules and laws regarding the needs of the community
  • Providing directly or on behalf of central government; adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities for the community
  • ensuring that these services provided are managed efficiently and effectively
  • exercising community leadership
  • representing the community to other levels of government and authorities
  • managing, protecting, developing, restoring, enhancing and conserving the environment
  • accounting for and manage assets for which it is responsible
  • facilitating the involvement of councilors, members of the public, users of facilities and services and council staff in the development, improvement and co-ordination of local government and facilities
  • raising funds for local purposes by way of rates, charges and fees and investments, loans and grants
  • keeping the local community informed about its activities
  • listening to the concerns of the community
  • ensuring that in the exercise of its regulatory functions it acts without bias
  • acting as a responsible employer.

(Adapted from Role of local Government – Local Government NZ website)

These roles and responsibilities are almost exclusive of any actual legally designated roles or authority, however, they form the basis for how all dealings with council should be undertaken.

More after the jump…

Better Council Meetings

Fortunately, I haven’t had to attend too many council meetings in my life, however, in my new role, I am representing developers and clients more and more frequently in the capacity of a Civil and Urban Engineering Designer. My biggest complaint on how council meetings are run would be how difficult it is for the general public to follow on with the proceedings and to understand what the motions being passed or otherwise might actually be about. Apparently I’m not the only one… 

The vague and lackadaisical way that public meetings are often conducted can frustrate anyone who watches local government at work. When commissions or councils vote, citizens can be left in the dark as to what the vote was about and why board members voted the way they did.

A primer on public meetings

This article gives some tips to councils such as lose the jargon, explain to the public what’s going on, and why members are voting on an issue the way they are. Really, it’s all nicely summed up in the final two paragraphs…

Also, elected officials should keep in mind that the process by which a decision is reached can be as important as the decision itself. All the rules of order in the world won’t matter if elected officials do not value openness and accountability in conducting the public’s business.

Local governmental bodies should strive for good work habits and an open decision-making process. That is the least that the public should be expect from its leaders.

Send a copy of the article to your local council members if they are in need of a primer.

Public Transport Ridership Down in Castlegar

The Present Public Transport Network

One 35 foot bus. Two routes, (click for map), and about three passengers it seems.

Castlegar has a very distributed residential population, and as such, smarter planning of bus routes, bus types and appropriate levels of service and waits is necessary. As I say often enough, Castlegar is not alone in problems like this, but it is big enough to know better than to accept this from the provincial government, who provides much of the funding for public transport.

In today’s local newspaper, reports of a study being undertaken to improve the service and rebuild ridership, which I think is an excellent initiative…

Castlegar News – Local Transit Strives to Provide Better Service

B.C. Transit will be looking at alternative solutions, and is considering adding another bus, simplifying the current route and possibly adding a Saturday service. “The system is going to be looked at. It takes a long time for somebody to go from one end of town to another,” said Marshall. “We can’t cut back anymore, that’s partly why the system isn’t growing anymore,” he added. (emphasis mine)

Hang on, cutting back? Why on earth would they be looking to cut things back!?! The problem surely is being caused by the cut backs. With the price of gas vs rising housing costs, people need options for transport that meet their needs. As new land is developed, houses are typically being built further from the commercial zones, and the service becomes more unwieldy the further out you go. Read more after the jump….

Redundant Pedestrian Study for Canada

While I was reading through this recent article on a pedestrian study being carried out in Canberra, the Capital City of Australia, I thought, how nice would it be to undertake this study in smaller towns and cities in Canada…

Urban Design Forum – Creating a Walkable City Centre in Canberra

Intelligent Space Partnership Ltd, a London based consultancy developed a model that established pedestrian flows for the existing areas and predicted flows in future development areas of Canberra Central.

I chastised myself, “don’t be silly Mike, no one walks in small town Canada!”

Unfortunately, the partial truth of that statement is seen in who actually does walk; the poor, the elderly, and moms with young children are about it.

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Now to be fair, the town I live in is not alone in this trait, but seriously, something should be done to reduce the dependence on motorized transportation and make the roads friendlier for bikes and pedestrians.

The average person doesn’t walk.

They will drive the 100 meters from Safeway to Dairy Queen rather than walk.

But is it all their fault?

Or is it actually difficult or dangerous to attempt walking through typical North American commercial and big box store areas? Now that would be a study worth reading.

Small towns and cities don’t have the means to do these large scale studies, but what they can do is encourage healthy and sustainable living through policy and leading by example to the community they serve.

It’s interesting to think that Canberra would feel the need to carry out a study like this, in my mind, the have more meters of paved trails and paths per person than any other city I can think of. Walking and cycling are encouraged.

What pedestrian stories do you have from your town? Is it dangerous to walk through your town? What improvements have you seen in recent years to the pedestrian networks where you live?

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Alberta Land Use and Sustainability

by BugMan50 (Creative Commons License: Attribution, Non-Commercial)As Albertan land use spirals out of control with massive growth in the oil, gas, residential, commercial and industrial sectors, the rest of the country stands by waiting and watching…

What can we learn about this situation and how can we better protect the environment and livability of those towns we call home? This article in yesterday’s Calgary Herald…

Alberta can’t just keep racing to keep up with the boom, Liberal Leader Kevin Taft says. "It’s just about a free-for-all out there right now, and it’s causing all kinds of problems," Taft says as he travels to Red Deer for a meeting.

"With the economic boom, land use decisions are getting pushed through every day and there’s no long-term strategy. "Clearly, we need rules on who can play in what parts of the sandbox."

Premier Ed Stelmach acknowledges a comprehensive blueprint for land management is needed, and promises to complete one shortly….

The question then becomes, how much of Alberta should be developed?

Official debates on this and other land use questions have so far taken place behind closed doors amongst government officials, municipalities, industry representatives, aboriginals and landowner groups. Next month, average Albertans will get their say in a round of public forums and an online survey.

"I think that Albertans, once they have an opportunity to talk about what they would like to see in the province of Alberta in terms of the rules of development, it may in many ways deal with the kind of pressures between urban-rural, oil and gas, and agriculture and forestry," Stelmach says. "There’s also these questions being raised of how much area we will protect of Alberta in the future?"

At the moment, virtually nothing in the province is off limits to energy development, except national parks.

(via Calgary Herald – Alberta’s land rush chaos)
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Just Like Texas

Will Alberta follow the trend in its Southern Cousin Houston, Texas? Will Alberta end up with 18 lane highways to keep all the gas guzzlers moving?

Small Town Entrepreneurs

The other day I read this quote:

“Anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur should consider any small town”

Source: Sprawled Out: When creative minds align…

It is a quote from a Tracey Porter, a successful business woman who runs (with her husband) a home decor, fashion and jewelry brand from the rural town of Princeton, Wisconin.

“You have to climb outside your box,” Tracy Porter says. “Anything you can do from somewhere else you can do in a small town.”

Some towns have what it takes to support a national business. The benefits are huge if you can take the risk. Land and construction costs are lower, commute times are as short as you want them to be, and lifestyle factors can improve too.
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Cowtown – The Sprawling City

My family likes Calgary. We lived there for two years and loved it, enjoying it’s proximity to the mountains, a fantastic river corridor through the city and it’s vibrant, sometimes alternative communities. But Calgary is a sprawling city, ever increasing it’s city limits like a belt on it’s last hole, it barely contains the bulging waistline of a growing population.

I recently returned from a quick trip to Calgary, visiting friends who live in a cute modest house in the suburbs, on a quiet street where the kids can play on their bikes or with hockey sticks without fear of high speed traffic.  They know their neighbors names, and all the kids on the street. Its a little community looking out for each other. Sounds ideal doesn’t it?  The American Dream, replayed in a city nestled against the Canadian Rockies. I loved their home and their community, and if it were a bit more affordable, we would consider moving there ourselves.

The reality of the image is a little darker, with long commutes to work, high mortgages on expensive house and land packages, double digit economic growth forcing potential home buyers to look further and further afield for their dream home. Parts of downtown are rough, in a recent article, Lisa Rochon of The Globe and Mail stated…

Suburbs are not only unsustainable, they suck the life out of the downtown.