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A visit from UCLA and Toyota

A visit from UCLA and Toyota

Aaron Cohen, a strategic planning administrator for Toyota, joined 25 UCLA students on a trip to study Vancouver's architecture and transportation last week.
Aaron Cohen, a strategic planning administrator for Toyota, joined 25 UCLA students on a trip to study Vancouver's architecture and transportation last week.

Last week, TransLink helped host a really interesting visit from 25 UCLA students. They were here as part of a collaborative program between Toyota and UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design.

The students were studying the city of Vancouver and its TransLink-managed transportation strategy. As part of their program, the students are creating design scenarios for southern California, and their Vancouver research helps inform that project. (Toyota is providing the transportation expertise, and the firm EDAW is guiding the urban planning element.)

Why Vancouver? I asked Aaron Cohen, a Toyota strategic planning administrator on the visit, and he said that, “Vancouver is one of the key input points where we can observe best practices in architecture and transportation.”

The university collaboration, explained Aaron, is a way for Toyota and UCLA to envision future cities from both an architectural and transportation perspective. Aaron said that Toyota believes the kind of transportation people will need will be largely dictated by the surrounding area, the architecture. So, Vancouver serves as an idea for how future cities might function.

Our tax situation is also a unique development. “We were very interested in the fact that Vancouver was the first North American city to have a CO2 tax,” Aaron said. “It represents a possible future direction for other North American cities.”

A number of local architects, urban planners, and other public space experts gave tours and held discussions with the UCLA group. For our part, TransLink took the students on a transportation tour of the region, and did presentations on TransLink as an organization, on the Transport 2040 plan, and on the concept of transit villages.

A lot of things really stood out to Toyota and the UCLA group.

“I’m very impressed by the integration and transit-oriented development we’ve seen,” said Aaron. “How walkable the communities are, and how easy it is to bike around these communities. It seems like it’s all part of a system.”

Stephen and Crystal, two UCLA students studying Vancouver and its transportation system.
Stephen and Crystal, two UCLA students studying Vancouver and its transportation system.

Stephen, one of the UCLA students, was impressed by the high-density residential areas in Vancouver. “High density living is widely accepted here, which is really good. It surprised me to find out that most of the tall high-rise buildings in downtown Vancouver are residential.”

And Crystal, another of the UCLA students, called Vancouver “a really efficient city.” I asked her what else really struck her as unusual, and she replied, “For me, it’s the use of open space and public spaces between buildings that work out really well. Where you go from public to private and it’s all really seamless.”

In addition to Vancouver, the group will head to just one more place to help them envision future cities: Tokyo, Japan, which they plan to visit in December. Good luck with your projects, guys!