Archive for October, 2018

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A Taste of Amsterdam: I Took the Streetcar!

European cities are always good examples for urban planners. It was always my dream to see how those cities are developed. I was lucky to have a chance to travel to three European cities, (Amsterdam, Brussel, Paris) and experience the distinct culture of each place. One aspect I was impressed by was their public transportation system. Veronica O.Davis, wrote about her previous trip in Amsterdam (A TALE OF THREE CITIES – AMSTERDAM: I DIDN’T DO THE THING YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO), and this was a trip planned from her previous experiences.  

 

Speaking of Amsterdam, this was my favorite city to visit on this trip. There were such beautiful and colorful architectures, and the organizational street layout was impressive. The city is under sea level and is composed of several canal networks. The name “Amsterdam” came from canal Amstel and the Dam Square (home of the Royal Palace).  The layout of the inner-city canal ring was their city’s signature pattern. Originally, those canals functioned as the fortification.

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Amsterdam Old Map

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Present Amsterdam Map

The public transportation system mentioned in this article is not solely limited within inner city transportation but also inter-city transportation.

 

Inter-city transportation

We took Thalys train from Centraal station in Amsterdam to the Paris Nord station. Then from Paris Nord to Brussel Midi station. The Centraal Station in Amsterdam was large, spacious, and easy to access. Thinking about how we usually catch the metro to go to work, that is how easy to catch a train in Amsterdam. What’s more convenient is that they can use the same transit card on almost all public transportation systems. There are many lines in the station that ran every 20-30 minutes. Impressively, the train will leave at the exact scheduled time.

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Amsterdam Centraal station

Inner city transportation

As we all know, the bicycle is the primary mode of transportation for people live in Amsterdam, and I have never seen so many bikes in the city like that.

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Interesting details:

  1. They have a trash can that builds specifically for bicyclists.

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  1. This pole design really solves a lot of problems in dense trains or for those who lean on the pole.

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Streetcar

It was hard to ignore the streetcar system in Amsterdam, which could be found in almost every street. We bought an “IAmsterdam” card, despite the fact that almost all the public transportations are free (from the bus/streetcar to subway) during a certain time. It was very easy to get around thanks to their developed transit network.

  • Frequency:

Every time I waited for a bus, my waiting time was no more than 12 minutes

 

  • Punctuality:

 

There was a screen by every bus/streetcar stop and shows the time when and which bus/streetcar will arrive.

 

  • Easy Read Signage:

 

As a non-Dutch speaker, walking around and looking for places is not hard for me at all. I was able to always spot the sign and tell me the direction.

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There also some part that I am not used to in this city, such as people biking so fast that I almost bump into several bikers.

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After all, Amsterdam is an amazing city with a great transit system, I will talk more about the city in my next blog.

 

Mei Fang, who is an urban planner with a strong passion for urban and landscape design, she also enjoys looking for the variety culture inside of the city.

Check for sleeping iguanas under your wheel

Offbeat signs in Cayman Islands

I am such a transportation nerd that most of my photos from international travel are transportation-related. Between the Nspiregreen and Greater Greater Washington blogs, I have shared my travels to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Costa Rica, and Panama. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the signs I saw during my honeymoon in the Cayman Islands.

In the United States our signs are generally governed by the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). In its almost 83rd year on November 7th (Happy Early Birthday, MUTCD!!!), it was created to standardize signs, pavement markings, and other roadway features. Therefore, our roadways are predictable as people move between cities and states. Internationally, roadway signs are not governed by MUTCD and can seem offbeat to Americans. I’ve found through my international travels that in some cases, the signs in other countries can make more sense, despite their weirdness.

One of the funnier signs I saw in the Cayman Islands was “Caution Iguanas on the Road”. While in the U.S. iguanas are rare, they are very common in Cayman Islands. There are even signs to check under your car in case there may be sleeping iguanas. My neighborhood could use some of those signs for the feral cats that like to sleep under cars.

I saw four variations of pedestrian signs. One had a person walking. A second had two people walking with a note to walk left since people drive on the left side of the road. A third, had “Elderly People”. The hunched back and cane made me chuckle. There was a fourth sign that had two people running for their lives. Unfortunately, we could not stop the car safely to take a photo, which is probably why the people on the sign were running for their lives.

In the US we have a “Yield” sign which signifies that a person driving should slow or stop to let a person driving on the main road proceed. However, in Cayman Islands the signs say “Give Way”, which I think is easier to understand.

For some additional funny signs from my travels, check out my post on GGW on Offbeat signs in Panama, which include a robot pedestrian and a bodybuilder jogger. My personal favorite of all the signs I’ve seen is the “Ballerina Sign” I took like working on a Community Planning Assistance Team in Belize City, Belize. I was disappointed I didn’t see any ballerinas twirling across the street.

Have you seen any funny signs in your travels?

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

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Imagine a Day Without Water

 

Imagine a day without water.

 

Just imagine. Without water, how can you perform the daily routines in your life such as taking a shower, brushing your teeth, using the toilet, cooking, cleaning, drinking, or washing clothes and dishes. What about water usage in communities for public use like restaurants, parks, hospitals, car washes, or in relation to farming and firefighting? Believe me I thought about it, but it’s kind of hard to fathom. The average person uses about 101.5 gallons of water per day. Many Americans tend to take water for granted while many communities around the country have already experienced a day without water.

 

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Clean water is one of the key components to an adequate quality of life. Unfortunately, proper water access is inequitable in terms of geography and cost. There are over 1.6 million people in the United States that are affected by water insecurity with a lack of complete plumbing facilities. That figure does not include the millions of people accessing unsafe tap water despite the benefits of modern plumbing. Imagine being homeless with no access to water, or being part of a family that either can’t afford water bills or has such shoddy water infrastructure, water insecurity would be your daily reality.

We are facing a bigger challenge than most people think or want to admit. When we think of water, we think of this infinite supply that is a gift of nature to mankind. If nearly 70% of the earth’s surface is made up of water then what is the problem? Why is there an on-going push for awareness to conserve water? Well, out of the 70 percent figure just mentioned, less than 1% of that total is actually freshwater suitable for human consumption and usage. When considering the threats to this precious 1 percent of fresh water, such as population growth, climate change (increase in natural disasters, drought, flooding, and wildfire), outdated infrastructure, and pollutants from impervious surfaces, and many other threats not listed here, one can only conclude that this will lead to increased costs for environmental remediation, health hazards, food shortages, and other unforeseen issues.

There is an ongoing nationwide movement by the Value of Water Campaign to spread awareness about threats to clean water and infrastructures. Imagine a Day Without Water takes place on October 10, 2018 for its fourth annual day to raise awareness and educate America about the value of water. Anyone is able to participate! Environmental organizations, water and wastewater providers, public officials, business leaders, labor leaders, community based organizations, schools, engineers, and others are encouraged to be a part of this national education campaign to engage stakeholders, public officials, and the general public.  You can find examples of ways to participate here.

Here are a few tips on how you can conserve water throughout your day:

 

Brushing your teeth. Don’t keep the faucet running.

 

Showering. When running the faucet while you’re waiting for the water to warm,  place a container underneath the faucet to collect the cold water. Use the collected water to water your plants and lawn. Also, decrease the duration of your showers. You can purchase a shower timer to encourage shortened showers of 4 to 5 minutes.

 

Flushing the toilet. With every flush, older toilets can use from 3 to 7 gallons of water. Newer toilets reduced this amount to 1.6 gallons of water. Place a water bottle in the tank to reduce the amount of water needed to fill it. There’s also a tool called the Tank Bank which clips onto the side of the tank and displaces about 0.8 gallons of water with every flush.

 

Shaving. Fill the bottom of the sink with minimal water and use the water to clean your razor.

 

Cooking. Don’t let your faucet run while you’re cooking. Wash vegetables and fruits in a large bowl filled with water instead of using the faucet. Boil food in as a little water as possible.

 

Washing dishes/clothes. Wait for a full load to wash your dishes in the dish washer or your clothes in the washer machine. Consider a front-end loader washing machine to not only reduce water consumption, but water utility bills. The upfront higher costs will pay for itself after a few short months.

 

Your efforts can go beyond Imagine a Day Without Water. We should strive to become more conscious of our water consumption and become advocates for this precious supply that is essential to life. If we continue with our current trends then eventually there will be far more than 1.6 million people that won’t be imagining a day without water but living days without water.

 

Jazmin Kimble is an Urban Planner, Urban Designer, and Architectural Designer from Long Island, NY. She has a passion for empowering and planning adequate, equitable communities through the lens of Geodesign, Urban Design, Community Development, Sustainability, Environmental Solutions, and Community Engagement. Jazmin believes the culture and the history of a community is what makes it unique. This approach allows her to design with communities from a holistic viewpoint.





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