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World full of sustainable ideas

Michael Geller finds inspiration from practices in Brazil, Turkey, Albania, Israel, Whistler



As the global community comes face to face with land-use issues and climate change, unique and inspiring ideas are beginning to blossom.

Not every idea is huge and there are many obstacles to making sustainable and livable environments a reality.

But little by little land use planners and others and working to try and make sustainable living a reality. A few of these ideas were the topic of a popular seminar at the B.C. Land Summit in Whistler last week which looked at what lesson could be taken from countries around the world and put in place in B.C.

Hosted by Simon Fraser University's Michael Geller the audience learned about Brazil's transportation system in Curitiba, South America's most sustainable city; why row housing should and is coming back; why there should be more public art; and why taxi service needs to be overhauled to allow for multiple passengers at the same time.

The presentation was based on a tour Geller did of 31 countries across four continents in 2007.

Of all the lessons that need to be taken to heart the most compelling concerns transportation said Geller.

Cities on the water need to embrace more water based transportation, public transportation needs to be convenient and timely for the passengers and people need to realize that public transportation is for everyone, not just those who can't afford a car.

"One of the real problems with public transit is that most of us think we are too good to use public transportation, especially buses," said Geller.

"We will consider using things like Skytrain. But I think if you can change the public perception of public transit then more people will use it."

Officials also need to re-think what public transportation is. Geller used the "buses" in Turkey as an example. There the buses are more like mini shuttles and while they have a route, they can deviate to take you to a designated spot.

This can work especially well in areas that are larger and have low density, like many of the communities in B.C.

In Curitiba, said Geller, the busses run like a light rail with people buying tickets on a platform before they board the transit. In some cases the bus is in a designated lane and in other cases it melds with traffic.

In Israel's Tel Aviv, if you get a cab from the airport the driver waits until it is full of passengers before leaving the terminal.

"The notion of someone going in a taxi by themselves from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is unheard of, and I really think we need to think about sharing taxis as part of our culture," said Geller.