I’ve been meaning to write something new for a long time, if only to practice. I figure today’s just as good as any.

Over the past two years, a lot has happened in the universe of Ben: remember that tramway proposal? It’s actually going somewhere – it got picked up by the candidate who would go on to win the mayoralty race in 2013. Since then, the idea has quietly been gaining ground behind the scenes since the almost comical failure of the Rapibus system in Gatineau (it would be funnier if we didn’t have to pay for it, but alas). The idea itself has evolved quite a lot since my first musings to become what I’d like to think is a solid proposal both feasible and transformational. The ministère des transports du Québec (MTQ), having looked over the STO’s Rapibus study for the west of the city, has since requested (demanded) a new study which will include more corridors than just Des Allumettières and more technologies than just BRT. I’ve got to make sure I’ve got some solid arguments in my favour come the study’s planned release this spring and I’ve got some super helpful and encouraging people helping me along (to whom I’d really like to say thanks!).

I’ve also started university! I actually spent last year at uOttawa to avoid a second year of CÉGEP (which lacked… challenge.) studying anything that interested me: mostly linguistics, but also conflict studies, geography, Japanese, contemporary Russian political history and others. However, this is my first year working towards a degree; as was the plan, I transferred to a university that did teach urbanism. I chose uMontréal on the recommendation of my mentor, role-model and good friend, Alain, who has been nothing but gracious in indulging me with his time, advice and expertise.

Alain, if you’re reading this, know that I would never be where I am without you and I can’t begin to express my gratitude.

So I moved to Côte-des-Neiges in a lovely walk-up but I keep very close and frequent ties with Aylmer, Gatineau and Ottawa. I’m also realising that university life isn’t at all what American films advertised – no animal house, I haven’t even seen a box of Kraft Dinner, people do their own laundry and only my bread gets baked. Tant mieux, so much débauche always seemed to me like a lot of work.

But before I started university, I went to the Harvard Graduate School of Design this summer! For real! I wrote a submission to a little twitter contest launched by Jeff Speck – the prize: free attendance to a two-day workshop at the HGSD on walkability lead by the man himself. There were a lot of people who wrote in – professionals, graduates and I think there was even a mayor – I didn’t think I had a snowball’s chance in hell, but when I saw that my submission had been selected, well, you could’ve knocked me over with a feather! The workshop was incredible and I can still hardly believe that I was there, but I’ve got pictures and a fancy certificate to prove it!

So here I am, two years later, 1/6th a university graduate, 1/250th of a Harvard man and as involved as ever in my town, despite the difference. And now I think it’s time to revive this blog with all the new things I’ve learned and am currently learning about the art and science of city and place.


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