New Moka House at Guildford Mall

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Moka House Coffee has opened its newest location in Guildford Mall.  All of their blends are both fair trade and organic, and the price point is fairly competitive (just over $2.00 for a large cup).  On top of all that, the coffee was brewed to perfection.  Moka House will definitely give the green mermaid a run for her money!

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What a beautiful evening…

I was coming home when I noticed a sliver of the moon high up above the Surrey Central Tower.  What a beautiful evening!

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Surrey Central Tower

Hey, where is everybody?

The Skytrain is really quiet this morning, and it was the same yesterday too.  The trains are usually packed to the rafters before they even get out of Surrey, but only about two thirds of the seats are taken this morning and we are well on our way into Burnaby.  Where is everybody?

Hmmm…  Is it because the weather is so beautiful?  We are finally getting temperatures in the high teens and low twenties, and there is a lot to do in town at this time of year.  Maybe people are digging into their annual vacation allotments.  Makes me wonder why I didn’t do that…

I have to wonder whether it might also have to do with the H1N1 virus, commonly referred to as the swine flu.  People seem to be suspicious of the tiniest cough or sniffle, and I know of at least one person who has been sent home from work because he exhibited these symptoms.  Probably just a cold, but better that he not pass it on to his co-workers anyway.

The headline in the daily tabloid that the woman beside me is reading says that there are eleven confirmed cases of H1N1 in BC (no, I wasn’t snooping – it just caught my eye), and a CBC report said Canadian cases are fairly minor so far.  Maybe the heightened sensitivity stems from the initial death toll in Mexico (which the World Health Organization has now discounted).  Or perhaps it is due to talk that this virus could mutate quickly and in unexpected ways.

Talk of a virus can also mean boom or bust for businesses. Sales of hand sanitizer are way up.  On the other hand, pig farmers worry that sales of pork will go way down due to H1N1’s association with swine, even though there are no food related risks associated with this virus.  Maybe that’s why Prime Minister Harper is referring to H1N1 as the Mexican flu instead of the swine flu.

What is one to do?  Don’t panic because this too shall pass.  Hope that the virus peters out quickly.  Most of all, don’t touch your face, and wash your hands a lot!

What would Jane Jacobs say…?

I was passing through the Surrey Central Skytrain Station the other day when I noticed something a little unusual.  Underneath the escalators near the bus loop, there is a park bench and a lamp.  This would be normal enough, except that it is all enclosed by a high, wrought iron fence.

The juxtaposition is a little strange – you are simultaneously invited into this welcoming space while emphatically being told to keep out.  Now, why the park bench and lamp are so precious as to be in need of protection was not immediately evident to me.  There was no obvious indication of a gateway to Narnia, or anything…

This got me thinking of how we use space in and around many of our Skytrain Stations.  It seems that the goal is to move people through – no loitering.  This makes sense from a transportation point of view, but not necessarily from a community planning point of view.  We have unintentionally created spaces that are largely empty and, for many people, a little intimidating outside of peak commuting times.

Jane Jacobs advocated for mixed use urban spaces, and for densification as a means to create critical mass capable of sustaining vibrant communities.  The area around the Broadway and Commercial Skytrain Stations come closest to this ideal in my mind.  With the mixed use space (commercial, office and, nearby, residential) it has achieved somewhat of a town square feel.  Diverse people hang out, shop, or go for coffee in and around that corner at all hours (excellent for people watching, let me tell you).  A sense of safety is maintained by what Jacob’s called “eyes upon the street”.

Contrast this with most of the other Skytrain Stations on any given evening.  They are largely abandoned aside from some rather shady looking folks and, rightly or wrongly, they instill a sense of anxiety.  It’s true that urban development does not happen overnight, but we may want to pay closer heed to Jacob’s recommendations by creating more welcoming, multi-use spaces as these transit hubs evolve over time.

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Off limits bench at Surrey Central